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Imagine a technique that begins with one simple movement and transforms every muscle in your entire body... a technique so easy you can learn it yourself.. .and so amazingly effective that your whole life may change for the better.
"The Alexander Technique
Nobel Prize-winner Nikolaas Tinbergen hailed the discovery of the. technique. With "growing amazement" he and his family noted "very striking improvements" in high blood pressure, depth of sleep, overall cheerfulness and mental alertness. Tinbergen concluded that the technique may often produce "profound and beneficial effects" to help: relieve rheumatism, various forms of arthritis and respiratory ailments • remedy circulation defects that may lead to high blood pressure • alleviate many digestive disorders • reduce sexual failures, migraines and depression. Now you can learn the secrets of this unique, effortless technique and begin to realize your full physical and mental potential, starting today.
"Like opening a door into another world..."
One of our foremost teachers and practitioners of the Alexander Technique, Sarah Barker, has taught this amazingly effective method of mobilizing total energy in colleges across the country. From her own experience she has found that "the mere performance of this simple movement can, if you extend it through the whole range of your normal activity, put you on the road to a new life of health, physical freedom and, in the deepest sense, personal happiness." Try the technique yourself for a few weeks with her simple, everyday routines and see what wonders it can do for you.
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE The Revolutionary Way To Use Your Body For Total Energy by Sarah Barker BANTAM BOOKS TORONTO • NEW YORK • LONDON • SYDNEY .
This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part. consisting of the words "Bantam Books" and the portrayal of a bantam. without permission. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. New York 10103. Inc. Inc. New York. 666 Fifth Avenue. Its trademark.For Marj THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: THE REVOLUTIONARY WAY TO USE YOUR BODY FOR TOTAL ENERGY 2nd printing A Bantam Book /August 1978 April 1979 3rd printing February 1981 Photographs courtesy of Susan and Reed ErskinelLightworks All rights reserved. Copyright © 1978 by Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-14976-8 Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books. Inc.S. by mimeograph or any other means. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books. is Registered in U. PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 . Inc.. For information address: Bantam Books.
Contents Acknowledgments PART I LEARNING ABOUT THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE: The Important Benefits It Offers You THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE The What and the Why Scientific Acclaim Feeling at Your Best Age Is No Barrier If You Are Overweight Your Rampant Emotions Living Without Stress Being Who You Are Beneficial Effects in Many Diseases A Simple Method ix l 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 6 6 8 Chapter 1 Chapter 2 HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED The Australian Story Crisis on Stage The Patient Scientist A Unique Mission The Search and the Answer Outwitting Our Destructive Habits Those Puritanical Hang-Ups 10 10 11 12 13 13 15 15 V .
Whole Person Staying in the Moment vi CONTENTS . No Poses How to Look at Pictures The Breath of Life Let It Happen Your Breathing Improves How We Got This Way Three Easy Tests See For Yourself The Road to Take THE BASIC MOVEMENT Not an Exercise How to Start THE BASIC MOVEMENT Exploring Yourself The Basic Movement Your Whole Head Your Whole Body The Upward Direction On Your Way The Instant Train How to Succeed Without Really Trying 17 18 19 20 20 20 21 21 22 23 23 24 25 25 26 26 26 27 27 32 32 32 34 35 37 37 38 39 39 41 41 42 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 BECOME A WHOLE PERSON The Trouble with Physical Exercise The Trance in Which We Live Our Mistaken Ideas About Ourselves The Crown of the Senses Discover a World Within Part Person vs.Chapter3 BRINGING THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE What Is Good Use? You Are Not a Statue No Positions.
No Leotards A Way to Begin For Your Enjoyment Nine Rules to Follow 43 44 44 45 46 47 49 49 PART II 51 52 52 52 53 54 54 56 56 56 57 58 58 59 61 61 61 62 63 65 66 CONTENTS vii Action 1 LEANING FORWARD A N D BACKWARD Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Eating Soup How to Get Out of a Slump The Way You Talk MOVING ARMS Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Brushing Your Teeth Opening a Door With Children Action 2 .Chapter 6 THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG Why We Shrink The Upright Creature Must We Fall Apart? How We Conquer It Goes by Itself Never a Feeling of Strain A Future Without Fear THE PRACTICE OF THE TECHNIQUE How to Do It THE SEVEN ACTIONS An Effortless Program No Dumb-Bells.
Action 3 WALKING WITH EASE Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Jogging and Running Playing Golf MOVING LEGS Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life Walking Up and Down Stairs HEEL A N D TOE Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life KNEE-BENDING Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life STANDING UP A N D SITTING D O W N Exploring Yourself Applying the Basic Movement Applications to Daily Life A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE A Time For Rest Rotating Your Head Moving Your Arms Moving Your Legs Rolling onto Your Side Sitting Up 68 68 68 72 72 73 76 76 76 80 80 82 82 82 84 86 86 86 88 90 90 90 96 97 97 100 100 102 103 103 Action 4 Action 5 Action 6 Action 7 viii CONTENTS .
Restful Slumber Emotional ControlWorry. Panic 104 106 SOME HELPFUL HINTS The Worrier The Straining Housewife The Thinker The Scientist The Manipulator The Under-Achiever The Step-by-Stepper The Freezer The Over-Achiever The Practicer The Posture-Maker The Weight-Watcher 107 107 108 109 109 109 109 110 110 111 111 112 112 CONTENTS ix . Anger.
especially those who patiently suffered and. and all my students. the rest of us. benefited from the teaching experiments I conducted in the preparation of this book. graciously and expertly collaborated with me in demonstrating for the photographs that illustrate this book. Alexander.Acknowledgments Before undertaking to write a "how to" book on the Alexander Technique. I am grateful to Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen. Special acknowledgment is due my colleagues and associates at Rancho Linda Vista in Arizona. I would like to thank the various Alexander teachers with whom I have studied and spent long hours in discussion. When I began the necessary exploring and investigation. Peter Trimmer. if given a set of sure guidelines. had on his own discovered how to control the use of his body. upon whose work I have drawn freely. Surely. could learn how. and whose individual help in some cases was indispensable to me. My colleague. who supported me with their probing questions. I received the help of innumerable people to whom I am most grateful. and thanks are also due to a number of close friends. of Oxford University. hopefully. I thought long and hard: The idea of learning the Technique from a book seemed revolutionary and possibly heretical. F M. which places the Alexander Technique in a modern scixi . even lacking his genius. I am also indebted to several distinguished scholars in the field. who were always available for the encouragement and energy needed to carry on. Then I remembered that its originator. for his remarkable speech accepting the 1973 Nobel Prize in Medicine.
I have. Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Dean Emeritus of the Medical Faculty of the University of Witwatersrand. Frank Pierce Jones. Matthias Alexander. with Maisel's generous permission.entific perspective. Wilfred Barlow for his informative accounts of the medical use of the Technique in treating patients. In a couple of spots. This book is not intended to reflect the views of any of the considerable number of people who helped me. South Africa. for the insights in his Anatomist's Tribute to F. to Dr. whose studies of the Alexander Technique have accomplished much for the scientific understanding of this work. Of course. who laid down the guidelines for those of us who have followed him. to Professor Raymond A. has contributed so greatly to public appreciation of the Alexander Technique. whose study introducing The Resurrection of the Body (Delta Books). Research Associate at the Tufts Institute for Psychological Research. closely paraphrased a few passages from that study. an indispensable selection of Alexanders writings. Dart. Sarah Barker xii ACKNOWLEDGMENTS . to the late Dr. the greatest debt of all is to Alexander himself. The project is entirely my own. to Edward Maisel.
PART 1 Learning About the Alexander Technique The Important Benefits It Offers You .
his students and followers conducted a considerable amount of research to substantiate his findings. At the Tufts Institute for Experimental Psychology. During the years before and after Alexander's death in 1955. F. Matthias Alexander. and known around the world as one of the most extraordinary discoveries of our time. That technique is the Alexander Technique. Scientific Acclaim It would surprise many people to realize what the Alexander Technique can do for them were its astonishing'results not supported by the most respectable scientific authority. reports by physicians attesting to its remarkable effectiveness in helping many of their patients. so simple that you can learn it yourself. like the opening of a door into another world. named for its discoverer. twenty-five years of investigation—using quantitative measure and control groups—have thrown important light on the manner in which the Alexander Technique produces its seemingly miraculous effects.Chapter 1 The Alexander Technique: The What and the Why Imagine a technique for transforming the operation of your body. There has also accumulated an impressive volume of clinical data. a technique so amazing in its results that your physical and emotional life will soon change for the better. 2 .
humanity's chance to survive may depend upon how men and women salvage themselves. It's never too late. We have learned that there is no mechanical device in the world—electronic. most of us plod through our days and nights in a condition far below optimum. we "get by. full THE WHAT AND THE WHY 3 . Age Is No Barrier If you think you're too old to begin learning anything so revolutionary. Even after forty or fifty years of continually misusing yourself. an exuberant and vital sense of wellness: physical freedom and ease combined with mental flexibility and alertness. Many of us know now that through ignorance and insensibility we unnecessarily limit ourselves in how we function. We scarcely begin to realize our enormous potential. as normal. took up the Alexander Technique at the age of fifty-eight. Just as we have thoughtlessly depleted the natural resources of the planet. one of the founding fathers of scientific philosophy and modern education. Indeed. the Alexander Technique proposes.Feeling at Your Best Apart from suffering any specific medical symptoms. computerized or laser-beamed—that functions with such infinite resilience or so many delicate capacities as the human body. Against this keep-your-nose-above-water-level definition of being alive. more than ever. this factor may prove more critical than our ability to manipulate the environment further." Good health is regarded as merely the absence of sickness. you're wrong. John Dewey. and that today. We "manage". you can begin to make a beneficial and healthy change. Ours is an era where people have begun to value their bodies as unique and wonderful. He thereupon underwent an extraordinary rejuvenation and lived another thirty-five rich. so too are we daily abusing the most valuable resource of all—our bodies—and depleting our own energies.
George Bernard Shaw learned the Technique at eighty and lived to ninety-four. The famous writer had spent all his days in a state of acute physical illness until he studied the Alexander Technique and transformed himself. But little or nothing is ever mentioned about another important factor. If You Are Overweight You can even streamline your physical appearance by means of the Alexander Technique. one possessing a true waist and chest. finding his physical and mental energies too drained by social contact." Huxley might have given his own story as a case in point. and he was beset by a terrible 4 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . The ninety-two-year-old Dewey attributed this vital longevity to his Alexander practice. What many authorities therefore find most impressive about the Alexander Technique is embodied in Aldous Huxley's statement that "If you teach an individual to be aware of his physical organism and then to use it as it was meant to be used. and it is hardly news that human development in general is retarded by fear reflexes unduly excited by emotions. And we have information about calisthenics. Something crucial is missing from our national quest for a more attractive physique. What about the way we wear our weight. which determines success in attaining a beautifully proportionate body. the other a nondescript but thickening bulge? A beneficial side effect of the Alexander Technique is a better carriage of the body's weight.years. We have sufficient data on calories. whatever it may be? Why is it that two people of identical poundage and the same general build often have quite different looking torsos. diets and the dangers of eating too much. Your Rampant Emotions All of us are subject to "states" of various kinds. exercise and strenuous exertion. He had begun to withdraw from people. prejudices and fixed habits. you can often change his entire attitude to life and cure his neurotic tendencies.
Or if you're anxious about something. the foremost scientific investigator among Alexander scholars. observed that while the physical effects of the Technique are indeed remarkable. reported in other therapies as well. THE WHAT AND THE WHY 5 . notice whether you clench your hands slightly or perhaps a great deal. you may also hunch your shoulders and fix your chest rigidly. he noted. We tend to be less depressed when we are not physically burdened. but it was the Alexander Technique that opened up a new way to live. Underneath are the unconscious tension states that can build into attitudes which interfere in our relationships with other people. He had tried gardening. Next time you're angry. Living Without Stress We can see how this works easily enough. yoga and other remedies in vain. you may find yourself making fidgety movements. We also discover how much more we like other people when we have a more relaxed feeling about ourselves. When angry." Some of these. Jones observed in his own experience "an almost immediate increase in mental and emotional control. for a change in mental attitude often accompanies an increase in health. anger. But quite apart from these desirable side effects. There is likewise an improvement in our self-image when we feel more competent physically.depression and a chronic insomnia that made it almost impossible to work. panic." This is because the Alexander Technique gives a workable approach in attacking emotional problems directly. may of course be explained as the happy side effects of any betterment in physical condition. worry. Can the Technique really help with our mental and emotional problems? Professor Frank Pierce Jones. These are all surface reactions we can observe. "the psychological effects are of greater importance. and we are no longer simply at the mercy of confusion.
He related how his interest in it 6 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Once you break this cycle of reinforcing feeling with body tension. you may find your feelings much more within your control. you may even find that you no longer experience any disquiet—except perhaps to wonder where your rage or panic went. In 1973. and moving hopefully from one fad to another. because you are no longer reinforcing them with body tension. Beneficial Effects in Many Diseases Many people would find it hard to believe the seemingly fantastic medical cures attributed to the Alexander Technique except that these extraordinary reports come from reputable physicians and scientists. or prevent the fidgeting. Professor Nikolaas Tinbergen. upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Medicine. If they turn to the Technique.When you release those clenched fists. they are offered a release from the confines of habit so that they have some choice in their lives and become capable of acting more freely in whatever they do. you are able to experience emotions fully in a few moments and begin thinking clearly again. Millions of people exist in this half-alive state. hoping for some kind of emotional relief. Being Who You Are The Alexander Technique has particular value for people who don't want to fill themselves with drugs. there is no magic formula that will instantly solve their problems. devoted half his acceptance speech to the Technique. Instead. countering their depressions and anxieties with a whole arsenal of tranquilizers. Thus freed. by means of the Alexander Technique. This new conscious control of yourself does not prevent you from feeling any emotional states—life would be rather stiff and boring if it did—but you will be able to allow for more appropriate and spontaneous responses to the events of your life if you are not locked into one fearful or angry response for all occasions. or to shop from therapy to therapy.
no ulcers. they observed "with growing amazement" the marvelous results. he suggested. no cancers. and reported that in this group there were no coronaries. migraines and depressive states that often lead to suicide. his wife and one of their daughters had learned the Technique at the same time. might be helped by the Alexander Technique. endorsing the Technique for its remarkable effectiveness in the treatment of many of their patients. even asthma. which is a point that must be emphasized. no discs. resilience against outside pressure. They noted. no rheumatoid arthritis. and also in such a refined skill as playing a stringed instrument. Dr. As their body musculature began to function differently. All these as well as other non-bug diseases. overall cheerfulness and mental alertness. The British Medical Journal once published a letter. and I repeat once more. conducted a survey of men and women who had long used the Alexander Technique. no such evaluation has thus far been carried out. no strokes. both in the mental and somatic sphere. respiratory ailments. and called upon their profession to recognize and evaluate it. breathing. Barlow called this statistic "almost unbelievable" and concluded that 99 percent of the population need the Technique. signed by nineteen doctors. that the Technique brought about "very striking improvements in such diverse things as high blood pressure. depth of sleep. including various forms of arthritis. for example. circulation defects that may lead to high blood pressure and heart conditions.He. Wilfred Barlow." Tinbergen went on to affirm the possibility that certain other stress-related ailments could benefit from the Technique: rheumatism. sexual failures. Unfortunately.was excited by a little experiment he had tried with his own family. THE WHAT AND THE WHY 7 . no neurological disorders and no severe mental disorder. Tinbergen concluded that while the Technique is assuredly no cure-all to be applied in every case. "there can be no doubt that it often does have profound and beneficial effects. gastrointestinal disorders of many types." A physician.
like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.Although there has accumulated an impressive volume of personal testimony. actors—are making it an important part of their training program. Those that have a professional interest in their bodies—musicians. Highfashion magazines. A Simple Method People from all walks of life benefit from the Alexander Technique. . It offers a key for orienting yourself in all that you do. "Since the Alexander Technique is nothing more than the application of experimental method to problems of everyday behavior. If you have any ailment or illness—even one due to. It provides a compass for navigating in whatever physical or mental perplexities you may find yourself. It presents a simple method for learning the Technique by yourself. dancers. Part II presents a systematic program of seven easy Actions that shows you how to expand the Basic Movement as the basis for improving the quality of all the activities of 8 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . there is no reason to delay the undertaking if a teacher is not available. In the words of Professor Frank Jones. no thorough-going scientific investigation has been conducted into any of the medical claims that have been made for the Technique." In Part I. A word of caution is therefore in order. the continual wear you place upon yourself through bad muscular habits—only your own physician can advise you if the Alexander Technique is likely to help. Patients in medical institutes in London. This book will introduce you to the Alexander process of thinking and moving. New York and elsewhere find it accepted as a valuable resource in physiotherapy. the Alexander principle has been encapsulated in one very simple action called the Basic Movement (Chapter 4). you may readily apply it. Whether seated in a theater or standing waiting for a bus. or complicated by. have informed their readers of what the Technique will do for bodies that display expensive clothes.
however. we need to learn more about Alexander himself and how he made his great discovery." said Professor Tinbergen in his Nobel speech. shown by a man without medical training. These Actions will facilitate this because they are invariably involved in almost everything you do. "is one of the true epics of medical research and practice. "This story of perceptiveness." THE WHAT AND THE WHY 9 . and the Technique that derives from it.your everyday life. of intelligence and of persistence. To understand the Alexander principle.
Not much is known about his father except that he was poor and hard-working. This is certainly true of the way the Alexander Technique was discovered. In this way. no less significant for the welfare of the human race. we can see that it does indeed owe almost everything to the peculiar genius of that individual and to the special circumstances of his or her particular life. are said to have hit upon the powerful mathematical tool of calculus at about the same moment in history. But there are other turning points. He was born in 1869 on the island of Tasmania in a small town named Wynyard. that have been reached in total isolation from any ongoing tradition of study and research. acting independently of one another. And upon closer inspection. Whatever influence he may have had on his son was far overshadowed by the boy's mother. an unusual woman who was close to the child during his formative 10 .Chapter 2 How the Technique was Discovered Many a major innovation in the history of science appears to have been lying there. the new proposition put forth appears to have sprung full-blown from the brain of its originator. just waiting for the great person who discovered it. The Australian Story Frederick Matthias Alexander came from a remote outpost of the Australian bush country. Newton and Leibniz. At first glance.
and away from the mining company could consider himself legitimately to be a professional actor. In Melbourne. refusing to accept anything on blind faith. saw that his difficult pupil was something more than the usual rebellious student. but family poverty demanded that the eldest son go out to work. which was all the formal education the youngster received. however. tutored but not formally taught. she had been known to saddle her horse and leap it over the paddock gate so as not to lose time fooling with the latch.years. and sometimes in response to urgent calls. By the time he was nineteen. Alexander was different from other children. a Scot who had emigrated to Australia in an effort to repair his health. trying to recoup his small fortune with odd jobs. and it was this disability which proved to be the determining factor in his life. Thus. He seemed to have an innate distrust of accepted routine and conventional wisdom. He persuaded Alexander's father to let him tutor the boy in the evenings. From the beginning. Sometimes during recitals his voice failed him completely—disturbing enough for any actor! Doctors could HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 11 . giving his recitals on numerous smalltown stages. He worked under a handicap. Alexander won prizes and passed examinations with ease. Local doctors often called on her. his schoolmaster. riding and midwifery (which included nursing and other medical services) to help her neighbors. for the theater had been his love since early childhood. recitalist or both. he decided to cast his lot with the theater as actor. Crisis on Stage He could have become the teacher his tutor wanted him to be. so he took a job with the local tin mining company. Fortunately. when he began at six to practice the kind of recitations so popular in that day. He would have liked to go on the stage. she combined two of her talents. Alexander was already considered an accomplished reciter of Shakespeare. In this wild and remote part of the world. After the mining came a succession of other uncongenial positions. finally.
This close scrutiny continued for nearly ten years. Soon he began to go beyond his immediate problem. becoming fascinated with the whole question of what happens to the body not only in speech. In time. At first. quite apart from speaking. Alexander devoted himself to finding out what made him lose his voice. halfway through an important engagement during the 1888 season. He discovered that every movement he made was accompanied by a slight tendency to pull his head backward and down. Changing the poise of his head by pulling it backward and down was. with attention. This pattern of unconscious activity constituted the preliminary to every recitation he gave.give him no more than temporary relief. The Patient Scientist That was the turning point. which is fundamental to the spirit of all scientific inquiry. This was something he did. he could see the same pattern at work as involuntary preparation in whatever else he undertook. but also during any physical activity. not only during his stage appearances. in fact. the condition gradually worsened until he finally had to refuse engagements if he thought he might be incapable of getting through the performance. he lost his voice and left the stage in near despair. Instead. using mirrors while he declaimed as an aid to observation. part of a whole body pattern that also included lifting his chest and hollowing his back. he began with that slight pulling backward and down of his head. he came upon the characteristic that was blocking his own activity. from the most trivial to the most strenuous. It was only more noticeable in formal recitation because there it produced a depression of the larynx and an audible sucking in of his breath that could. There were to be no more doctors. 12 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . but also when speaking normally in ordinary conversation. Once aware of it. In everyday physical acts. One night. Meanwhile. Alexander began to examine closely how he used himself physically when he was on stage—keeping his eyes open and observing.
the obvious solution was to substitute for this negative action (with all the consequences it initiated) the conscious constructive movement of the head and body upward. Australia. movie stars. on a different scale. after he-had completely corrected the long-standing vocal disability that drove him from the stage. and during his lifetime he worked both in England and America. theater people. For as he pondered the far-reaching consequences of his startling discovery for the physical. industrialists. He also produced several books. He continued this mission until his death at the age of eighty-six. Italy. Thus. A Unique Mission Since these patterns of bad use were triggered by an unconscious reflex of pulling the head backward and down. Statesmen. and a valuable compilation of his essential writings may be found in The Resurrection of the Body (Delta Books). diplomats. He observed similar consequences. he withdrew more and more from acting. South Africa and other countries of the world. all his other activities were likewise initiated in the same self-stultifying manner. his teachings spread to Denmark. no matter what business or occupation. The Search and the Answer We can come closer to understanding the nature of the discovery that underlies all we are going to learn in this book if we now outline it in the terms suggested at the outset of this chapter: a special kind of person makes an important HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 13 . Through his students. But not for long. finally abandoning the stage to carve a unique career as a teacher of the Alexander Technique. mental and emotional well-being of people everywhere. Switzerland. Alexander resumed his theatrical career. in everything else he did. Israel. New Zealand. writers. France.be seen and heard. athletes and celebrities of all kinds sought him out.
only to have his voice fail completely halfway through an especially important engagement. This leaves him with the ugly choice between (1) leaving the theater altogether or (2) applying himself tirelessly to discovering the cause of the problem. No use in seeing more and more doctors. he is an actor specializing in the recital of long passages from the works of classic playwrights. he is forced to see a doctor about the problem.finding through the circumstances of his or her particular life and in isolation from any tradition of scientific thought on the subject. It turns out that the doctor cannot find the cause. His great love for the theater had caused him to gravitate through a series of unchallenging occupations before attaining. Being a far from submissive personality. and it precedes all efforts at vocal articulation. Alexander resumes his profession with renewed confidence. at last. Alexander chooses the latter. results are frustratingly slow in coming. In fact. but he does prescribe a medicine that might just do the trick. Thus armed. Alexander has found the key. it takes almost ten years of searching through more minute movements before the secret reveals itself. While carefully limiting his theatrical obligations. Through years of carefully watching his every motion in an elaborate system of mirrors. a remedy 14 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . he devotes the rest of his time to a painstaking and meticulous observation of the only clue he has—himself. The scene is Australia during the 1880s. a career on the stage. At the age of nineteen. Eventually. His career seems assured—his reputation is growing steadily. That secret is a small but perceptible contraction of the muscles at the back of his neck. for he realizes that the physicians of his day know even less about his condition than he does. and his only stumbling block is the occasional but very annoying tendency of his voice to give out during recitals. where we find the young Alexander confronted with a problem of survival.
we can consciously move our head upward. In order to revise things of which we are not aware. the first of a whole series that will follow if the first occurs unchallenged. And this is only one destructive habit. we need to prevent the neck from contracting unnecessarily. We are not split into body and mind. we need a new approach—one that can bring subconscious sensations forward into the conscious mind. the action that most often precedes wasteful or harmful responses is a contraction which pulls the head slightly backward and down. repeated hundreds of times a day over a span of many years. high blood pressure and chronic joint and muscle pains. Taken together. this destructive series can compress the body's trunk. the customs of language entrap us much HOW THE TECHNIQUE WAS DISCOVERED 15 . Those Puritanical Hang-Ups A major conclusion that emerged from Alexander's study and observation. body following it. which can cause loss of voice. And doing this means using the conscious mind to change our subconscious muscle patterns. Outwitting Our Destructive Habits Basically. To eliminate the problem at its source. interferes with the smooth operation of the muscular and nervous systems and all the vital organs. thus squeezing the delicate organs that reside there. The effect of this is a compression of the spine. was this: mind and body are inextricably bound together. They form an inseparable whole. With every act. which. The person is one psychophysical organism. He must release that contraction with movement of his head upward. and from his later teaching experience. Unfortunately. It can lead to round-the-clock tension in some muscles. reducing lung capacity and projecting the stomach unpleasingly forward.will follow.
if we happen to suffer from puritanical hang-ups. we tend to look down upon the fleshly part as being inferior. the fault lies with one of those two separate halves. at the same time visualizing a something mental that is embedded in a something fleshly. we also run the risk of never being rid of our troubles. . quoting the ancient Greeks. we could be finding out what we are doing that keeps us from solving our problems. or higher part. the garbage is not carried out. can manifest itself in any of a thousand different ways that upset or swamp us. Instead. The leaves go unraked. the kitchen mess accumulates. in fact downright lowly. After all.of the time into thinking so. "A sound mind in a sound body." we glibly say. With disastrous consequences for our daily life. we may even persist in believing that the physical business of daily existence is unimportant or at least unworthy of our serious attention." thus mistakenly conceived. Often. the clutter of papers on the desk remains untidy." We have something to blame. . compared to the mind. Disdain for the mere "physical." Or "my thoughts keep wandering. 16 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . into a mental part and a physical part. Whenever we divide ourselves in two like this. It's "that damn leg of mine. personal grooming is neglected or forgotten .
" he wrote.Chapter 3 Bringing the Alexander Technique into Your Life Taking Alexander's discovery into your own life can mean strength. It simply offers a different biological approach from the one you have been using. reaching to a shelf. "To take a step is an affair not of this or that limb solely. getting in and out of automobiles. closing windows. However we go through any or all these activities. writing with a pen or pencil. Sherrington. he said. "but of the total neuromuscular activity of the moment. walking. Adopting the Technique does not require you to embrace a new religion or far-out philosophy. our particular patterns of move17 . It does not matter what the activity is: lying in bed. the whole psychophysical man. for everything we do. by stress and excess muscle tension. casual or major. Besides." The Australian was therefore correct. standing up." We can readily see why. ease and endurance in everything you do—even sleeping. always involves us in patterns of movement and rest. directly or indirectly. the great Nobel Prize physiologist. a new way to integrate thought with action. the effects can afford relief in a very wide range of ailments that are caused. Sir Charles S. in insisting upon "treating each act as involving the whole integrated individual. unscrewing the caps of jars or uncorking bottles. sitting down. opening and shutting doors. once praised Alexander for his discovery.
Sometimes nerves are pinched. you unconsciously tighten the painful area and often other parts of the body as well.ment and rest constitute the particular use (Alexander's word) that we make of ourselves. When your body is erect. So in this attempt to gain desirable results forcibly. What Is Good Use? The key concept of "use" is perhaps the easiest way to explain the Alexander Technique. Bad use means employing the body in a haphazard way: one part of the body compensates at random. Indeed. however. and that causes malfunctioning of the parts of the body serviced by them. It's the same thing with your spine. you simply abuse yourself in another manner. it provides enough room for your organs so that your breath can massage them. these conditions of excessive muscular tension are likely to exist. Good or bad. arthritic joints or an upset stomach. If you try simply to push yourself erect. Some parts of the spinal cord will then experience more pressure than others. It sometimes happens that when you experience pain anywhere. whenever you move without awareness. but in fact this new excess tension in the joints and muscles will slow down circulation and actually prevent your body from healing itself. for unless the vertebrae are stacked evenly. as from a twisted ankle. for the movement of another in order to maintain balance and stability. everything we do in life manifests itself in the way we "use" ourselves. Circulation is slowed down. the only possible result is that while you may be lengthening some muscles. Good use means moving the body with maximum balance and coordination of all parts so that only the effort absolutely needed is expended. and usually inefficiently. The object is not to learn all the proper combinations of 18 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . You do so presumably to protect the injured area by immobilizing it. the pressure of the body being supported by them is not evenly shared. If you are slumped down. you will be shortening others drastically. you're putting unnecessary pressure on the organs so that they can't function as well.
" a word that ought to be jettisoned because it in no way corresponds to the conditions of real life. you learn instead one Basic Movement that can control the normal flow of all your activity. Forget the paragons of close-order drill in the Marine Corps or the symmetrical ranks of the chorus line at the Folies Bergère. The effort to hang on to some deliberate position. You Are Not a Statue Making good use of yourself by means of the Technique must never be equated with the static thing known as "posture. In the ordinary work of walking and living. or the very moment you start descending the stairs. no matter what kind. they drop the elevated chest and the forward curvature of the spine. leathernecks and chorines alike let go of these strenously maintained body attitudes. Through the Alexander Technique. you must at the outset dismiss from your mind all shining examples of good posture. For when they depart the parade grounds or the music hall. You are not a statue to be propped about in various juxtapositions to meet the changing requirements of whatever you are engaged in. Conceivably. since its absence was based on nothing more than that transient "holding-in" known as posture. So in learning the Alexander Technique. the word might apply on the rare occasions when you take a stance before coming into a room. there are BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 19 . Unfortunately. Such a course is both impossible and unnecessary. however. It is in fact quite absurd to think of attaining some ideal posture and then clinging to it through all your subsequent activity. is continuous and involves both physical and mental fatigue. though. you are again caught up in movement. or when you stand poised at the head of the stairs. Once you have entered the room. with its accompanying hollow in the back. The aim of the Technique is to allow a condition of ease throughout the body without creating any new distortions in the process.muscular action needed for all that you do and then try to think of them constantly as you move. And your customary use of yourself will reappear immediately.
your lung capacity is thereby diminished.people who do indeed seem to be trying to preserve just such a rigid and invariant attitude through all that they do. do not look upon them as static poses or positions to be imitated. When you are not slumped. The Breath of Life A vital function of our body that is impaired by bad use is breathing. More air can then pass in and out of the lungs. more room is provided in the chest cavity. They are intended only as a guide or pointer to the action described. However. the blurry effects of such an attempt at authenticity would nullify the purposes of useful and simple instruction. each illustration should be provided by stroboscopic photography or some other form of action picture. Think of them as having been extracted from some ongoing movement. it may be well to state flatly what the Alexander Technique is not. and even if there were. First of all. You will not be asked to memorize the "right" pose for every possible body position (sitting. standing and so on) and then go through life using these and only these poses. more waste materials are cleansed 20 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . No Positions. the mere act of getting out of a chair takes the body through more than a hundred positions. If you slump even slightly. the positions involved in darning a sock would require a whole lifetime of memorization. Ideally. to prevent the least trace of confusion. as a result. No Poses To forestall any possibility of error. How to Look at the Pictures When you consult the photos that accompany the directions in this book. there is no "right" pose for any position. This forces you to breathe with your upper chest rather than with your lower ribs and diaphragm. and. it would be different for every person on this planet because each human body is different. Second.
from your body. With the increase in the freedom of your breathing machinery, the quality of your voice can improve.
Let It Happen
Good breathing is integral to the Alexander Technique. This does not mean that you will need to practice it in the form of separate and isolated breathing exercises. As you begin to correct your faulty use, excess muscular tension will disappear. With the release of that tension, the action of your ribs and diaphragm in breathing will automatically take care of itself. As you progress, you may find yourself yawning or emitting deep sighs. Let them happen, for they come involuntarily and are an excellent sign that you are getting rid of excess tension. You will find that breathing supports movement at the same time that movement supports breathing. This natural and inevitable orchestration of the two is very different from superimposing some artificially learned breathing pattern upon your movements. Make sure you don't hold your breath. Don't try to do anything. Let it happen.
Your Breathing Improves
Notice, when talking, whether you are breathing in through your nose or your mouth. Give yourself time to breathe. It is helpful on occasion to close your lips and allow the air to come in through your nose when you need breath. This helps to release any tightness in the throat. Many of us develop the habit of gulping or sucking in air. This tenses the throat and is accompanied by a downward pull of the head. But when you don't collapse your chest and pull down, a slight vacuum is created in the lungs, which pulls in the air for you. When you breathe normally in this way, every time stale air leaves your lungs, new air will automatically come back in. Through the Alexander Technique, you can learn to leave your breathing mechanism— your body—alone to function freely and without effort. BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 21
How We Got This Way
To be sure, in this misguided quest, the breathingexercisers and the posture-builders may really be seeking some of the benefits that are achieved by the Alexander Technique. The grace and naturalness that the Technique imparts to you will be highly noticeable. Whenever you use it, your entire body will be more erect—your chest is not collapsed, your torso does not settle in on itself. As you continue to practice, an improvement in muscle tone occurs. If such are the blessings reaped through making good use of oneself, why are they so deplorably lacking in most of us? What has gone wrong? Why so much grief physically and mentally? It is the burden of civilization's advance, Alexander believed, that has brought upon us our present deteriorated condition. Today, instead of adapting our bodies to a slowly changing terrain, we capriciously adapt a fast-changing environment to arbitrary standards of comfort (even taste). Through current upheaval, the one thing that has remained essentially the same is the structure of the human body. Prior to the development of technology, changes in the world around us took place over a span of millions of years, slow enough for us to keep pace through subtle, unconscious alterations in the body itself. But our restless civilization has brought about a revolution in our surroundings so rapid that this process of gradual development has been quite outdistanced. As a result, the world we know now is completely foreign to the one to which human beings long ago adjusted. Our life-style has become a hybrid interaction of a body, originally adapted to primitive survival, with an environment of elevators, mattresses, automobiles and comfy chairs. Our physical and social universe is radically different, and our physical equipment has been impaired in its responses to the new demands thrust upon it by contemporary living. We have to make intelligent use of ourselves,
22 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
said Alexander, if we want to meet the new conditions effectively.
Three Easy Tests
To illustrate the degenerative influence that civilized living has exerted upon the human organism, Alexander proposed three simple tests: (You are requested to interrupt your reading for a moment and carry out the following three experiments.) 1. Move your head without your shoulders. 2. Open your mouth without tilting your head back. 3. Turn out your toes without first shifting your heels. While doing each test, be alert and sensitive in registering how you move so you may catch the unnecessary movement involved.
See for Yourself
In quite the same spirit of experiment, you may now begin to notice, in the course of your daily activity, how you go about handling objects. Next time you brush your teeth, for example, stay alert and observe just how heavy the toothbrush is, how much energy is required to lift it and keep it in your hand. How much pressure is needed to brush? In the toothpaste commercials on television, it sometimes appears as though the people are trying to brush the teeth right out of their mouths. (See Fig. 8, p. 66.) You can make similar observations when you sit down to write a letter. With a little try-and-see, you can tell how much strength is actually required to hold onto the pen and get the ink to flow onto the paper. Once you consider how you actually go through any activity, you can begin to affect a change in your performance of it.
BRINGING THE TECHNIQUE INTO YOUR LIFE 23
and which is the essence of the Alexander Technique. a sane solution to our problem. the expenditure of energy in animal movement is exquisitely attuned to the requirements of what needs to be done. AND LET YOUR WHOLE BODY LENGTHEN BY FOLLOWING THAT UPWARD DIRECTION. In a famous allegory. and you will see a creature completely relaxed yet still capable of making sudden. like a cat or a dog. which blocks. which accompanied formal recitation. which we will learn in this book. relying on animal instinct." There is. What is more. successfully defends itself by exerting very slight movements to deflect the thrusts and feints of a champion swordsman. Observe even a domestic animal. but they are likewise spared its debilitating side effects. no underdoing. And it is this. more than anything else. The human antagonist is baffled by the perfect efficiency of the beast's innate responses.The Road to Take Animals in the wild miss out on the satisfactions. 24 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . prevents. defeats and frustrates whatever we may intend on every level of our existence—physical. MOVE YOUR WHOLE HEAD UPWARD AND AWAY FROM YOUR WHOLE BODY. We are not about to rejoin the lower animals or "go primitive. the German writer Heinrich von Kleist makes this point by describing how a chained bear. In curing himself of his loss of voice by noting the slight pulling backward and down of his head. But the answer to the perilous misfunction that has befallen mankind through the anxiety and stress of modern living cannot be to call a halt to civilization. at rest. They have no price to pay. No overdoing. 'Alexander uncovered the whole pattern of bad use. emotional and mental. It is this same harmful pattern of involuntary preparation which is involved in everything we do. definite movements. however. may be enunciated as follows: AS YOU BEGIN ANY MOVEMENT OR ACT. cultural advantages and triumphs of civilization. The road to the recuperation of our diminished faculties.
There are no exercises in this book. Nothing tiresome will be required of you. Not an Exercise But first a word about a word. the calisthenic approach stands in direct opposition to the Alexander Technique. joint-wrenching gyrations of any kind. You are not called upon to run miles or to lift heavy weights.Chapter 4 The Basic Movement You are now ready to learn the Basic Movement that incorporates the Alexander principle in a form you can practice whenever you wish." can be performed more effectively and with much greater benefit once you learn the Basic Movement and apply its principle to them. put you on the road to a new life of health. It is in no way related to muscle-snapping. ed. that the strenuous and repetitive exertions popularly known as "phys. the word always refers to some movement or action of the utmost simplicity. in the deepest sense. and everywhere else in this book where a movement or action is given. however. personal happiness. The word "movement" as used here has nothing to do with the 1-2-3-4! 1-2-3-4! calisthenics you did in gym class. if you extend it through the whole range of your normal activity. The mere performance of this simple movement can. 25 . as we shall see in the following chapter. This distinction is especially important because. physical freedom and. It is true. In the Basic Movement.
Whether you play golf or tennis. We shall do it sitting. a guideline to follow: a new way of thinking and moving. the sooner you will experience a new lightness and ease and a sense of real assurance in whatever you may be doing. The Basic Movement Exploring Yourself You may carry out this movement either while seated or standing. 26 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . or whatever your game may be. Turn your head to look around you. for example. The sooner you apply to any normal activity—such as tying your shoe or lifting a bag of groceries—the Basic Movement of letting your head move up and letting your body follow. This moment of selfobservation is presented under the heading "Exploring Yourself. It is not to be repeated mindlessly in hopes of programming yourself into some automatic routine that has nothing directly to do with daily living. Next follow the instructions for the Basic Movement itself. it can undergo amazing improvement after you have bettered the use of your body in pursuing it. Some Olympic rowers.The same applies to those more skilled and motivated forms of calisthenics which we call sports. No trance: eyes open." and the same format is used as a preliminary to every other movement or action in this book. are presently learning the Alexander Technique because it makes a real difference in crew performance. swim or bowl. rather. It provides. How to Start The Basic Movement is preceded by a brief inspection of your total condition while you carry out the action in your customary or habitual manner.
then tip it down to look at the floor. 4. crackling sounds in your spine? Is your breathing slowed or stopped? The Basic Movement While turning your head slowly from one side to the other in order to survey the room. What do you notice about the turning of your head? Do you feel any tense or tight muscles in your neck? Does your body twist about when you turn your head? Do you hear any popping. Notice if this upward direction of your head affects the smoothness and ease of the side-to-side motion. This does not mean that your body twists and turns with your head. Notice if it brings up and aligns your body. so that your neck lengthens above your shoulders instead of craning forward or jamming back. the following clarification of the main words used should give you even more success the next time you do it. Tip your head to look up at the ceiling. 1.) Remember to keep your eyes open and looking. then forward to look down at the floor.3. 6. (Figs. add the Basic Movement: move your head up and away from your torso and let your body follow. 8.2. Allow your whole body to follow the upward direction of your head. Next. tip it back to look up at the ceiling. (Figs.See the room. (Figs.) The upward direction will keep you from cramping your neck throughout these movements. Your Whole Head You must learn to think of your head as three- THE BASIC MOVEMENT 27 . but that it is allowed to delicately lengthen during your head movement. continuing to let your head ease up. Continue to allow your whole head to move up and away from your body while you perform the turning movement.) Now that you've gone through the Basic Movement once. 5. 7. Turn it from side to side.
Easing upward and away as you turn your head. 2. 3. Beginning from a usual slump. 28 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .1. From side to side.
6. Easing upward. As you tip your head back.4. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 29 . 5. And tip it forward.
10. sides. including the back. top and front (your face). The fact is that the spine in your neck is very near the center of your neck. this means your whole head. 9.) Often people have a tendency to lead movements with their chin. not just along the back of it as many imagine. 7. With this in mind. Cramping your neck unnecessarily. Also. (Fig. 30 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . It is important that you realize how substantial a support your neck provides for your head. (Fig. the diameter of your vertebrae is larger than that of a silver dollar—not the size of a nickel or a quarter.dimensional. you will be less likely to jut it forward. you will understand that you do not need to hold your head up.) When you remember that your chin is part of your head. the neck is sturdy and the head rests easily on that large base as it moves. When you are directed to move your head. thus pulling your head back and down. 8.
Jutting the chin forward needlessly. The whole head.9. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 31 . 10.
the bottom line of your buttocks.) Remember to think of your whole body as three-dimensional. You will probably experience some sort of change or notice some difference. that direction is. when you allow your head to move upward. The Upward Direction "Upward" does not necessarily mean ceilingward. Simple as this may seem. Your entire torso must be considered and no part forgotten. including sides. It begins at the base of your neck. People tend to think of only one dimension when allowing their body to move upward: either their front or their back.) Above all. back and front. 13.) However. Upward directs a positive action in order to prevent the usual negative action of pulling the head back and down and slumping. in following the instructions.Your Whole Body "Body" refers to your whole torso. Because your torso is connected to your head. causing unnecessary effort. On Your Way Repeat the Basic Movement and see what happens. As a result. and the moving of your torso up from the hips. includes your shoulders and ends at your hip joints. up toward the ceiling. (Fig. "upward" is where the top of your spine points. remember that upward always applies to movement—wherever the top of the spine happens to be pointing—and is not a fixed position. you will find that your body will automatically want to follow that upward movement. you must not forget it. Perhaps you'll be aware that you were pushing 32 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . your body must follow. (Fig. We're aiming for as much flexibility and ease as possible. of course. (Fig. When you are sitting or standing. If you remember this connection. 11. their body will curve forward or backward. as you lean your body to the side. 12. It means the moving of your head up and away from your body.
11. The whole body. THE BASIC MOVEMENT 33 .
and the cars the remainder of the body. Or maybe you'll feel that it is easier to move your head in the way described.yourself and using more effort to sit (or stand) than you are now. 73. The engine represents the head. you will have begun the process of keeping your eyes open and observing how you move." 12. there will be no time lag between the movement of the cars and engine. You might compare it to the image of a train. Or as Alexander once paradoxically described the movement: "All together one after another. 34 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . although the engine always begins the movement of the train with its forward impetus is transmitted almost simultaneously to each car. If it is linked up properly. In any case. Upward. The Instant Train The movement of the body following the head is fundamental to the Alexander Technique.
The lengthening of your neck when you move your head upward is tiny. The Basic Movement is a first-class example of the way a very simple adjustment in the use we make of ourselves can have tremendous. there are no "right" positions. It is a single adjustment. The Basic Movement is accomplished without any big. Here. you are not required to take up any new position in order to correct your misuse. on the order of mil- THE BASIC MOVEMENT 35 . external show. a very subtle and continuous movement of the head upward "only an infinitesimal amount" (as Alexander wrote from England to a man in America who was learning the Technique on his own).How to Succeed Without Really Trying Most people learning something new are eager to discover the "right" way to do it. What matters is that you improve the process of how you move. though. For as we have seen in the preceding chapter. far-reaching consequences. obvious.
But no neck-stretching whatever is required! Just a very slight movement of the head upward from the body will do the trick. 36 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Here. Your ruler may not detect the difference. It is perhaps part of our American credo to believe that only prodigious feats can produce worthwhile results. they try to become human giraffes. However. but you will feel it in every bone of your body. is one case where the big results come from a tiny change. some people are reluctant to believe that anything remarkable can result from the Alexander Technique unless they do something that demonstrates huge effort.limeters. though. They strain their necks mightily.
are clearly of a very different order from the strenuous push-pull. In fact. updown." the well-known nursery rhyme tells us. and the seven supplementary Actions that will follow in Part II." Just so. This is because they have been designed with a very different objective from that of ordinary calisthenics. the repeated and accentuated performance of the prescribed movements—thus badly executed—increased the damage they were already doing themselves. If we comport ourselves in a manner that is harmful. They are not likely to change our condition for the better. Alexander became convinced that such training would never meet the needs of people who came there in quest of physical development.Become a Whole Person The Basic Movement you have just learned. left-right activity most of us associate with physical education. Much the same is true of the numerous varieties of physical manipulation and massage that are applied to our bodies. Some of these bestow considerable good upon us. any exercises we do to get in shape will likewise be carried out in a manner that is harmful. If they used themselves badly in ordinary life. 37 . they would continue to do so throughout their physical exertions. "and he walked a crooked mile. The Trouble with Physical Exercises After visiting the gym of a leading exercise teacher in Australia one day. "There was a crooked man.
Only the very gross or screaming message—a headache. We continue wearing ourselves out and tearing ourselves apart from day to day because we remain in deep ignorance of our bad tension habits until we reach a crisis of pain or run into some drastic physical or emotional trouble. if you are accustomed to a standard shift. the Alexander Technique coordinates conscious thought with action in order that you may deal with yourself. sore ligaments or illness—gets through. How often have you driven from point A to point B without noticing what lies between or even how you got to point B. Or again. but his trouble will surely recur if the error in his swing is not corrected. We unfold the whole repertoire of our daily activity with little attention to how we are doing what we are doing. Consider. Thus. a person may carry one shoulder higher than the other and never notice (were his shoulders to be set level for him. through alleviating treatment of this kind. In this half-conscious state in which we operate. driving a car. Moreover. think back to the last time you borrowed an automatic car and reached down for gears that weren't there. a muscle cramp. some welcome temporary relief from the pains and aches caused by a faulty swing." We simply don't get true messages from our bodies anymore. they would now feel "wrong." ludicrously askew). we pay scant heed to the constant flow of information that is being communicated by our bodies. Another person may be oblivious of a tendency to lift her chin and jut it forward (until she sees herself on television).but their intention is not to teach a better use of ourselves. We cannot perceive the faulty way we are using ourselves because it has come to "feel right. 38 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Perhaps a golfer can find. as these bad habits have developed little by little. so too has our sensory awareness gradually adjusted to them. for example. The Trance in Which We Live Unlike conventional exercise and manipulation. Most of the time we operate our bodies on a subconscious level.
" The Crown of the Senses So how do we defeat this tendency toward what might be called a kind of wish-fulfillment in our senses. I have a good ear for other people's accents. according to Koestler. All this occurs. yet perceive my own voice as if it were free from it. do we get rid of the bad habits that plague us? The Alexander Technique. People who listen for the first time to the sound of their voice played back on a tape recorder usually get a shock. says Koestler. The main component of what we perceive is the sound we think we are projecting. There may be a world of difference between what we think we hear and our performance as heard by others. "The clumsy gesture is screened off from awareness by the direct impact of the image of the intended graceful movement on perception. however defective and self-defeating they may be. but this discrepancy is masked from us by the process of hearing what we intend and not what we are in fact uttering. because in the perception of one's own voice.Our Mistaken Ideas About Ourselves There is still another factor at work in this universal unfamiliarity with ourselves and our functioning." So too may our singing be stridently out of tune and yet sound just fine to us until a musical accompaniment pulls us back on the track. Perhaps no one has given a sharper and more disquieting picture of it than the writer Arthur Koestler. remarks Koestler. caused by a confusion between the event as intended and the event as it really happens? How. and. meets the problem by calling BECOME A WHOLE PERSON 39 . all the Actions in this book for learning it. I was virtually unaware of this till I first listened to my voice on a recorded broadcast. the actual acoustic production plays a subordinate part. in short. He offers himself as an example: "I am of Hungarian origin. therefore. and although my foreign accent retains the specific density of pea-soup. The same applies also to our gestures and movements.
a real chance is offered for the enrichment of our entire organism. in their concern with it. of trying to "unscrew the inscrutable. the development of this sense underlies the entire program set forth in this book. It is by means of this sense that we remain aware of the position of every part of our body even when our eyes are closed. one speaker even accused the others. Whenever we admire the seemingly effortless coordination in the movements of a great athlete. It is from this sense that we are continually receiving knowledge of the gestures we make and of the pressures or tensions anywhere in our body. Clearly evident in people like circus aerialists. but in the tendons and joint membranes as well. or the "kinesthetic sense" as it is called. we do not have to know the names of our muscles or how to locate them on a chart. At a UNESCO conference on brain mechanisms and awareness. It is not one of the original five long ago listed by Aristotle. jugglers or sculptors. This enricher of the whole person is considered by some connoisseurs and gourmets of good physical condition to be nothing less than "the crown of the senses. 40 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . or the agile ease and poise of a friend in the way he handles himself in all the ordinary activities of life. but in calling upon this faculty. We use it to assess the range and force of our movements and also in adapting ourselves to the weight of anything we lift. It is sometimes called the "muscle sense.upon a faculty we all possess but often overlook because it is not one of the so-called "five senses" we usually talk about. It is the kinesthetic sense that supplies the information we need." Since it is essential in the practice of the Alexander Technique." the distinguishing mark of superb physical condition. In order to ensure that we are using our bodies properly. Most everyone knows something at least about this faculty. "Kinesthetic" is a cross between the words "kinetic" (motion) and "esthetic" (feeling) and means "feeling motion." It is not really that inscrutable. it is deplorably lacking in a very great number of us. we are paying tribute to it." though actually its sense organs may be found not only in the muscles.
We can feel what we are doing and. we can increase the reliability of our kinesthetic sense and establish a new standard of good use. Part Person vs. Discover a World Within The "crown of the senses. sometimes so completely that many intelligent people go through their days "wholly ignorant even of the essential existence of these warpthreads in the fabric of our conscious life. is that the much stronger sense experiences of light and color may drown out this subtler experience." One trouble. during the past decade due to the popular rise of the human potential movement.S. get a good. George V. as Dr. has come very much to the foreground in the U. in this way. Whole Person There are always two ways a person can learn to carry out any action. by no means entirely forgotten in earlier American efforts to promote physical and emotional fitness. N. clear idea of ourselves in action. however. Dearborn pointed out. Dearborn always emphasized the important place that the kinesthetic sense holds in the life of every human being. One way is to focus on the single part of the body that actually does the work. Virtually every branch of that movement makes some use of body awareness. He called it "the warp of the sensation-fabric—the personality's dynamic index of its body. Through the sensitive practice of the Basic Movement and the seven Actions which build upon it. The other way is to use the BECOME A WHOLE PERSON 41 ." heralded by Alexander." The effective practice of the Alexander Technique makes it possible to receive increasingly subtle messages from within. This in turn produces a harmonious interplay of all our faculties and thereby brings about the first visible fruit of our growing kinesthetic development: good muscular coordination. It was. The wise and respected New England medical educator Dr.
enables you to allow this total pattern. Rather. to control whatever you do. all parts included and coordinated to perform the action. Because there are so many possible combinations of tension. So he swings his arm as best he can. the Basic Movement. a person wanting to throw a ball will find that he must swing his arm. his body may then compensate inefficiently to keep its balance. he may unwittingly raise his shoulder. The second way of performing an action is to involve your whole person in it. For example. Staying in the Moment In carrying out the Actions that follow. With the first method. You will learn directly the benefits of this regular experience of complete personal harmony. during the whole time you devote to an Action. you swing your arm in a manner that allows your whole body to be balanced and your energy to be directed effectively. He has no real awareness of the rest of himself. in time. It is the kinesthetic sense which. and when he hoists his shoulder. any number of things can happen that will cause more effort than necessary. be open to any and every message of feeling that comes to you from the various parts of your body. Your eyes must not become glazed.natural integrating mechanism of the whole body. physically-mentally unified Technique you gain from these Actions. You will then discover for yourself what it means in actual practice. From moment to moment. 42 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . This does not mean exerting effort throughout your entire organism in order to swing your arm. Do not hold your breath from a sense of strain. how it feels and how it affects a person to live by means of the unique. but must see whatever they look at. keep alert. This means using the Basic Movement.
Chapter 6 The Technique as a Way to Stay Young The youthful manner and attractive bearing attained through the Alexander Technique should dispel once and for all the conviction that men and women must inevitably bow down. we tend to disregard or forget this reassuring evidence of our senses. An eyesore and a handicap. But what about the rest of the theory? THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 43 . is now surprisingly common at a much earlier time of life. it has become a prevalent sign of our era. that the force of gravity. elastic lineaments. unequal to the combat. sunshine and other more familiar elements. it plays a major role in whatever we do. lithe movement and springy step belie their actual age. what used to be known as "dowager's hump." no longer related to income group or social status and every bit as typical of men as of women. We have all encountered at one time or another those rare men and women whose upright bearing. it is self-evident that all our movements and activities are subject to gravity's pull. stoop and wither before the onslaught of advancing years. Like air. Since our body consists of mass. we are done in by it. That gravity does indeed provide a persistent and unvarying element in man's ecology there can be no doubt. down. pulls us down. However. widely accepted at present. Indeed. working against us through all the years of our life. We continue instead under the spell of the rather sinister and frightening idea. That much is certainly true. down until finally.
we regain that lost stature. and thus being permitted to straighten out. As bipeds. . The skylab astronauts gave us yet another glimpse of this force's baneful effects when they emerged—after months of living outside it—in a remarkably unkinked condition. Throughout the day. But the cumulative results of a lifetime of unequal struggle can be seen in some bent-over and hobbling older people who have lost many inches. which lays us on our death bed and lowers us to the grave. According to the biologist D'Arcy W." and "it leaves its mark in sagging wrinkles. it is the indomitable force which defeats us in the end. For 44 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Gravity has slowly squashed them to the ground. people actually lose about half an inch in height. when we lie in a position parallel to the ground and thus alter the effects of the ubiquitous pull." The Upright Creature Supposedly. During sleep. we find ourselves inextricably locked in a lifelong struggle. in every beat of our hearts. Down. down . In this view. Studies have shown that between getting out of bed in the morning and getting back in at night. down. which was partly the result of not being pulled down. we seem peculiarly ill-equipped for maintaining an upright position. The unflinching. without let-up or cease. it works its malign influence upon us. unceasing pull upon us of this antagonistic force has been assigned responsibility for a very great number of the woes of aging. They had even gained in height (and lost at the waist). pitting human strength against gravity's relentless power with no chance of winning. as on earth. and the problem is one that has been with us ever since the forepaws of our prehistoric ancestors left the ground. all this is the price we pay for standing erect. drooping mouth and hanging breasts.Why We Shrink According to a popular view. . the quadruped is more fortunately constructed for resistance to gravity than we are. Thompson. it is felt "in every movement of our limbs.
These muscles are reflexively maintained in a state of tonus— partially contracted and ready for work—except when the body is lying completely horizontal. the spine and the network of muscles and ligaments. how—in this view—can we hope to contend with gravity's pull? We are compelled to oppose its force by sheer muscular power. two-legged human race. but far from ideal for steadying our weight. Richard Selzer totaled up the outward woes he thinks indicate that our erect stance THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 45 . with our heavy head and shoulders weighing down the skeletal structure. the weight of our inner organs is carried high above our center of gravity. in respiration and circulation as well as in the nervous system. In a fierce book. Failure or defeat in any of these components adversely affects the overall struggle. like an inverted pyramid. Dr. However. Just standing up is a kind of acrobatic triumph involving an exact balance of varying degrees of contraction and relaxation in more than two hundred pairs of muscles. This situation is said to account for many of the chronic progressive and degenerative conditions which afflict the falteringly upright. Standing or sitting. Mortal Lessons. deformation and distortion depending upon the disparity between the pull and each person's total power of response to it. Physiologically.one thing. Must We Fall Apart? While gravity depresses all the elements of the body. repercussions of the conflict are felt in all the other major systems of the body. the greatest strain is sustained by the musculo-skeletal structure that keeps us erect. we appear to be top-heavy. Our structural frame is an intricate system of articulated levers—bones and joints— that are held and moved by our muscles and tendons. Our spine is flexible. And strain means injury. curved in several places. perhaps an ingenious device for cushioning shock. The immediate battleground for humans versus gravity may be discerned throughout the musculo-skeletal system whose mainstays are the pelvis.
and before they are physically corrupted. no strain in the back or anywhere else. Man is a perfect match for gravity. This reflex of good use can be observed in infants. In the first two or three years of life as they gain mobility. Selzer. our vertebrae. Or watch a baby turn its head. We inherit an easy good use of our bodies. It does not fully or accurately represent man's complex relationship to the downward pull he experiences from the earth. From an evolutionary viewpoint. feeling. must have evolved a suitable equipment and the correct mechanism for biped locomotion.cannot successfully resist the pressure imposed upon us by gravity. According to Dr. Our blood gathers in hemorrhoids and varicose veins. They move in a superb manner quite naturally. it pivots smoothly without tension. He found that body chemistry as well as the regulatory and coordination mechanisms of the body are all affected. How We Conquer As it happens. which enables us to deal handily with the earth's pull. is both one-sided and incomplete. We obviously had to develop a way of neutralizing the effects of gravity in order for our life to have continued on earth. 46 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . The arches of our feet fall. Our flesh pushes itself through into hernias. And the mechanism is by now genetic. the whole body is in a system of balance. In the very long history of walking erect. buckle and wear out. mood. the extreme and scary picture we have just looked at. as Professor Tinbergen has pointed out. attitude and behavior may also figure in the generalized failure of our adaptation to the ordinary strain of being on the earth's surface. which is so popular today. the adventure of assuming an upright posture would probably never have been sustained if man had not become capable of it. Mental confusion. Our hip joints grind to a stop. their actions are beautifully free and easy. slip. Observe a baby come to sitting position by itself. piled one atop the other. the human species.
or shorten and arch our backs. and gravity merely compounds the problem.). we shorten our necks and pull our chests down. with its energy and movement directed up through the top of that column—the whole torso following the head—the body will work efficiently and flexibly. In effect. The correct messages from one body part to another (coordination) are relayed and interpreted properly. what has been discovered is that when all the body parts are balanced and integrated. the reflex system of the body is allowed to work. some form of additional support—in the case of the body. the reflex of our movement will be interfered with and muscle will be pitted against muscle. When we do not trust our body's ability and interfere with this natural reflex of ease. the body column will be out of kilter (Fig. We sense a new way of moving. The movement of the head leads and influences the movement of the body so that all parts (muscles) are coordinated and work in a harmonious system of contraction and relaxation. it is we who work against ourselves.) In this condition. A jutting part here or there creates an imbalance and. THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 47 . Rather. Only those muscles which are essential to a particular action are used in that action. as with a leaning column or an uneven tower of blocks. (Fig. things go wrong. tense muscles—is needed to keep it standing. detailed studies of this natural mechanism have offered a technical explanation in anatomical and physiological terms. And it is because of these tense habits that it so often feels as if gravity must be working against us. In attempts to control ourselves. 2. When arranged naturally in a sort of flexible column. the human species is constructed in a way to resist the pull of gravity effortlessly in keeping itself erect. We no longer have to depend upon large jolts or shocks from tensing muscles to tell us if something is happening. different from our previous experience of tension-filled activity.It Goes by Itself Careful. We actually feel heavier because of pressure put on the joints by excess muscular tension. If the head does not initiate. 1.
48 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Energy and movement directed upward. The body column out of kilter. 2.1.
But in fact we usually are holding onto something—namely." "Your posture is terrible. The Alexander Technique. Our bone structure (skeleton) is so finely organized a system of arches and supports that it takes only a tiny contraction of muscles to maintain us in the "work" of standing. Our misuse of ourselves in all that we do is the consequence of modern living. The magnificent engineering of the human body does not require it." But long before we heard these and similar unhelpful exhortations. Even when we think we're relaxed. A Future Without Fear Proper adjustment to gravity in the way we stand.Never a Feeling of Strain We meet gravity by keeping our "balance. the body following. is obviously an old. then. bringing the head into real physical balance on top of the spine. walk and move." "Or "Little girls don't sit like that. And this muscular release goes a long way toward explaining why the Technique is effective in eliminating superfluous tension. through the models we encountered and imitated in early family life and school. produces this desired alignment of the total structure. muscles throughout our body are tensing—holding on—in an effort to keep us as we are. inherited form of behavior." "Don't slouch. ourselves." and an elementary definition of the word is: the state of not having to hold onto something in order to maintain a position. our superb natural functioning had already vanished because of the way we were handled as infants. through the tasks we were called upon to perform before we THE TECHNIQUE AS A WAY TO STAY YOUNG 49 . Such excess tension is unnecessary. The new equilibrium gives relief and freedom to dozens of muscles that were previously engaged full time in "holding on" to maintain a condition that is at best a rough and hapless approximation of true balance. Most of us consider ourselves balanced when we stand (otherwise how could we?). Most of us are still trapped by the distant voices of parents and teachers repeating: "Stand up straight.
By means of the Alexander Technique. The effect is too strong for the body to resist. The upward movement of the head followed by the body can free us to initiate whatever we choose to do in whatever manner we choose to do it. We are no longer the helpless playthings or victims of a hostile force from below. and through our adaptation to the furniture and paraphernalia with which we lived. means that tension and gravity are operating in concert. We can reverse that trend once and for all the moment we decide to change our bad use of ourselves and reinstate our pristine grace. we can regain our easeful place on the planet and go confidently forward with the concerns that matter in our life. This is why the popular picture of gravity as inescapable master and despoiler is for so many of us the stark truth. 50 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . or the adult of middle or advanced age. and which Alexander pinpointed as the root of our difficulties. In the way we misuse ourselves. we can call a halt to our customary interference with the body's natural reflexes and thus facilitate our antigravity response. The foreshortening of the back neck muscles with which we initiate our every act. and the entire trunk and spine are slowly compressed. But this need not be.had the physical capacity or readiness. The youngster now starting out. we violate our own natural mechanism for meeting the downward pull exerted on all forms of terrestrial life. By means of the Alexander Technique. has no reason to dread that the years ahead are going to pull him or her down in a decline of slow surrender to gravity.
P A R T II The Practice of the Technique How to Do It .
are extensions and developments of the Basic Movement. doing 52 . to refer to it before undertaking a new movement. That movement contains the key to the whole T e c h n i q u e . which was given in Chapter 4. Each Action leads to the next according to a definite plan. (2) the Action itself. They do not employ anything in the way of athletic equipment or apparatus. without exception. Each step consists of three parts: (1) a preliminary exploration of your personal condition before you begin. w h i c h as we h a v e s e e n i s : AS YOU BEGIN ANY MOVEMENT OR ACT.The Seven Actions An Effortless Program The following chapters present a simple step-by-step program of seven Actions for learning the Alexander Technique. therefore. (When the weather permits. in your kitchen or office. No Leotards The Actions in this program are simple. which will show you how to apply the basic principle to all your movements. but all the Actions. UPWARD DIRECTION. and (3) suggestions for how it may be applied to everyday life. MOVE YOUR WHOLE HEAD UPWARD AND AWAY FROM YOUR WHOLE BODY. No Dumb-Bells. Often the Basic Movement within the Action description is italicized. AND LET YOUR WHOLE BODY LENGTHEN BY FOLLOWING THAT It is advisable. You can do them anywhere: at home or at work. Keep in mind these and other italicized instructions throughout the Action as they are essential to the success of your experimenting.
them outdoors will provide the additional benefit of fresh air.) The Actions require no gym shorts, or leotards or other special outfits. Street clothes, office clothes—any clothes you happen to be wearing—are fine, and no change of apparel will be necessary afterward. Whatever clothes you do wear should, however, allow you sufficient leeway so that you are not restricted in your movements and do not feel hampered in your breathing. If your clothes are not decently comfortable, you may want to loosen your shirt collar or open your belt a notch. Simply do whatever is needed to allow you to be freer in moving about and less confined in your breathing.
A Way to Begin
Read the instructions for each Action slowly until you have an idea of what it is. (If you prefer, have someone read the instructions aloud to you.) Then proceed to carry them out in the manner described. Sometimes the instructions are given in metaphorical language to convey what is wanted. Thus, when you are instructed to "direct your energy upward," don't worry about a scientific meaning: simply follow the instruction! You needn't do a great many Actions at one session; you may prefer to do them gradually. For example, you may do an Action for a day or so, noticing throughout the rest of the week how that particular movement appears when it shows up in your everyday activities. Then go on to the next Action. Initially, follow them in the order given, as each movement leads to the next according to a definite plan. Some people may prefer to do several a week. Be your own judge of your particular rate. Later, you can always return to a given Action and see if you can discover something more in it. However often you repeat them, you will always derive some benefit, provided the element of awareness is there. Never do them mechanically; you are not a machine. Indeed, treating yourself THE SEVEN ACTIONS 53
like a machine is the bane of what is ordinarily meant by "exercise." Paying attention to what is happening every moment of this program reeducates your senses and muscles.
For Your Enjoyment
Although a conscientious attitude is necessary, it is not necessary to drive yourself to the limits of your endurance. Indeed, that is an entirely wrong approach. It is far more beneficial to do an Action sensitively three or four times, without strain or tension, than to do it automatically many times. Remember, you are not in competition with anyone. You are doing the Action only for yourself, for your own good. If you rush through a meal, you do not give yourself the opportunity to taste what you are eating or to digest the food properly. Ill-digested movement, like ill-digested food, is less beneficial to you. You will enjoy the Actions more if they are done in a spirit of experiment and play. You should even allow yourself a little time in which to feel and enjoy the aftereffects of each Action. Do not rush from one directly into the next. Tall, short, thin, fat, lanky or padded, whatever the proportions of your body and whatever your age, there is nothing to prevent you from learning these Actions and doing them with enjoyment. You will adjust them to your own body as you go along.
Nine Rules to Follow
1. Your "head" means the whole three-dimensional globe—not just your face or chin or some other part of it. (See Fig. 9, p. 31.) 2. Your "body" means the whole torso. (See Fig. 11, p. 33.) 3. "Upward" indicates a direction, not a fixed place. (See Figs. 12, 13, pp. 34 and 35.)
THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
4. Refer to the Basic Movement (pp. 26-27) each time you proceed to a new Action. 5. Perform each Action at your own pace, not in the fastest way possible. How is what matters. 6. Stay alive: Keep breathing and seeing the world around you. There is no reason to hold your breath or go glassy-eyed. 7. Do not worry about executing the Actions "correctly." It is not a question of doing them the "right way," but rather of discovering greater flexibility and freedom in your movements. 8. Breathe easily and naturally through your nose. 9. Perform each Action as though for the first time.
THE SEVEN ACTIONS 55
include your body in that upward movement and lean forward. Let your whole head move up and away from your body and pivot on the top of your spine (top of your neck). sore muscles or stiffness. Your neck will twist a little to let your head turn farther to the right or left. Note any sensations of which you are aware. What parts of you tense in order to move forward and then back? Do you push yourself forward instead of letting your hip joints simply hinge? Do you hold your breath? Applying the Basic Movement Still sitting. don't change your position. but look around the room by turning your head. 1. Repeat three or four times. but don't force your head around.Action 1 Leaning Forward and Backward Exploring Yourself Sit in a chair and turn your head from side to side and then up and down to look around the room. Now that you've begun to think about how you are using your head. (Fig. Notice whether or not you are able to move your head more easily and let your head move up. Do you really need to use your body as well as your neck to turn your head? Lean forward and then sit back in the chair. such as a popping or crackling noise in your spine.) While allowing your head to continue 56 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Involve your neck muscles as needed.
upward and away from the top of your spine. In leaning forward. find out the difference between pushing your head up with your body and following the upward motion of your head. toward the floor. let your body follow upward as it leans forward in space. (Fig. simply bend at the hips to lean forward. Applications to Daily Life Some examples of leaning forward and back: tying your shoe while seated.) If you have difficulty moving without pushing. LEANING FORWARD AND BACKWARD 57 . 1. Lean forward by lengthening upward. then let your body follow that motion. Unnecessary pushing with your body. on or off from your chair. Try both. tip your head forward.V. lighting someone's cigarette from a seated position and eating at the table. reaching to turn the T. Keep your seat. 2. 2.
How to Get Out of a Slump "Sometimes you just want to have a good old slump." one of my teachers would often say.) Then experience getting out of that position by first becoming aware of a real connection be- 58 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig. 6. The next time you discover yourself in a slump. (Fig. 3.) You may have tried the opposite strategy: sitting very straight and trying to balance the spoon all the way to your mouth in an effort to appear graceful.) You will also appear more graceful and eliminate the balancing act. 4.) Probably the easiest way to eat soup is to lean forward effortlessly (by following your head up) and then let your torso curl slightly to bring your mouth closer to the bowl.Eating Soup Especially watch what happens when you eat soup. (Fig. The tendency is to collapse the chest and push the chin toward the bowl in order to avoid spilling the soup. 5. (Fig. pull down a little more than you normally would.
you may have noticed a change in your breathing. Pulling down. 5. (See pp. Try reading aloud from a book and see if you can notice what you do with your head and neck. LEANING FORWARD AND BACKWARD 59 . Do you leave them free or do you pull them down? Now think of moving your head up and away from your body and letting your body follow that direction while you speak. 7. While you have been learning to follow the upward direction of your head with your whole body. 3. As you talk. The Way You Talk How you talk is affected by what you do with your head. your body following up after it while you lean forward and then back. You've achieved a little more ease just by moving. Easing upward. let the upward energy continue.) Greater freedom in breathing brings greater freedom in speaking.tween your whole head and whole body. 20-22. Stiff. straight and awkward. You can do this anytime you find yourself slouching.) Note the change that has taken place as you emerge from your slump. 4. Then begin to let your head move up delicately. (Fig.
Easing upward. The ease of your head also helps your lower jaw to release.6. Now open and close your jaw with your hands. leaving the jaw muscles loose. When you have difficulty moving your jaw in this way. very gently place your fingertips on your chin just below your lower lip. You are therefore using more effort than you need to for speaking. The slump. with your thumbs on the underside of your jaw. it usually indicates that you hold tension there when you speak. To check the flexibility of your jaw. 7. 60 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . You can change this by allowing your body to follow the upward motion of your head.
later. While your neck lengthens and your body follows the upward motion of your head. palms resting down.Action 2 Moving Arms Exploring Yourself Do this one while sitting. Apply the Basic Movement Place your hands on the tops of your thighs. Let your head begin easing away from your body. do the movement easily enough to notice what you do with your body and head. At first. Then bring them down again. In other words. legs included. Do you tense your neck or jut your chin forward? Do you lean forward or backward with your upper torso? What parts of your body besides your arms are involved in this movement? Perhaps there are other things that you'll notice. Leave your hands there and let your arms rest comfortably at your sides. Every part of your body is related to every other part in movement.) Move your hands along your legs toward your knees. 3. while you lift your arms will affect the ease and efficiency with which you can move them. continuing to pay attention to your head and body. lift both over your head. what you do with the remainder of your body. When your arms are 61 . 2. you can try it standing. let your arms lengthen out through your fingertips. Then try moving them quickly and in several different ways. 1. Starting with your arms at your sides. (Figs.
(Fig. 5.straight. let your arms lengthen and let your head rest lightly on the top of your neck. (Figs.) As with your head and body. shoulders or neck to move your arms. although you can allow them to move. 6. Repeat the movement of raising your arms. bend your elbows and bring your hands back to your upper thighs. During this entire sequence. Applications to Daily Life What usually happens is that people shorten most of the muscles of any limb or any part of the body to move that part 62 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .) Think of each shoulder moving to the side upward and outward from the body to prevent any unnecessary tightening there. When your hands touch your knees. Then let your arms come back down in front of you. 4. adding to it the new direction for your shoulders. you needn't force your shoulders to move this way. 7. Beware of pulling down or tightening your chest. lift them over your head.
Then we unconsciously select the proper muscle to do the bending and use that muscle to work against the rest of the muscles. let your arms lengthen. That takes a lot of extra work. we make a tiny jerk of the arm. While your body follows your head up. Brushing Your Teeth A good example of how most people do more work than they need to is brushing teeth. 2. For example. and most people do it unwittingly. By watching how you use your arms. notice how you reach to pick up and use an object. Ask yourself if the energy you use is really appropriate to how light a toothbrush is and the amount of pressure you need to apply to your teeth. which are shortening. MOVING ARMS 63 . you will be able to avoid a lot of excess tension that would otherwise occur in your shoulders and neck. In the course of your daily activities. That locks the elbow joint.or to bend a joint. pulling the upper arm toward the shoulder. 3. to bend the elbow the way most of us do. 1.
No need to pull down and tighten. 64 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . 5.4. 6.
) 7.Next time you brush. MOVING ARMS 65 . (Fig. (Fig. Do a little experimenting to see how much strength is actually required to reach out to the knob and take hold of it.) Also note if you are overdoing the action by reaching out toward the door long before you get there. Then let your head ease up and your body follow and see if you can allow your arm to float up to the knob by lengthening out through your fingertips. which simply adds an unnecessary restriction to your freedom of movement. Your shoulders move upward and outward. 11. (Figs. See if you can make it easier. 8. Opening a Door You can make similar observations when you open a door. give it some thought. 9. Also notice what you do with your other arm and your shoulders. 10.) There is a tendency in standing activities like this one to lock your knees.
think a little and notice what you are doing with yourself. Let your head move up and your arms lengthen and hold the child with the 66 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .8. The body following the head upward. especially children. Pulling down. If you are tense and nervous. With Children The way you use your arms in handling a young child will definitely affect how that child moves. a child can feel it in the way you touch him. The amount of ease you have in your own body affects almost anyone you touch. 9. Next time you pick up your son or daughter.
support him at the torso. The amount of ease from you that reaches the child will influence him to calmer and less resistant behavior. MOVING ARMS 67 . When a six-month-old child is brought up by pulling on his arms. When you support a child with your hands in helping him to sit or stand. an undue amount of tension is produced in his back and shoulders. least amount of effort needed. he uses his whole body in a system of balances with no tension in his back or anywhere else. On the other hand.10. Also important is exactly what part of the child you hold when you lift him or help him to walk or to sit. 11. if the child brings himself to sitting. Do not inject any effort into the easy movement the child already possesses. which is maintained while the baby sits. Lengthening. Overdoing.
(Figs. stopping and starting several times until you feel that you have made some discoveries about your usual walk. (Figs. 1. with each step forward consisting of an awkward fall on that foot. It will help if you start 68 .) When walking. Applying the Basic Movement Begin standing.) Stop and start again several times. This will allow you to move as a unit rather than in disconnected sections—for example. step out with your right foot and walk forward. As you start walking again. bend your right knee. then head. note what part of your body begins the motion and which direction you move in first: side to side? backward? forward? Continue walking for a few minutes. Notice in which direction your energy moves. begin to walk.Action 3 Walking with Ease Exploring Yourself Find a room that has some open space enough to walk around in comfortably. the upward movement of your head and torso will move you forward. then shoulders following. 2. From a standing position. shift your weight onto your left foot. Which part of your body leads as you walk? Stop. 3. As you let your head move upward and away from your body with your torso following. hips forward. 4. you do not need to lean or fall forward.
1.2. WALKING WITH EASE 69 . Walking with ease.
70 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .3. Moving in disconnected sections.
with hips forward. WALKING WITH EASE 71 . head dropped. Awkward.4.
Remember that walking and easing upward happen at the same time. For once I began walking by the Alexander Technique. see that you ease your head upward and allow your body to follow up after it. 5.with both feet under you and your weight evenly distributed.) Jogging and Running With any degree of speed. Instead. To test this for yourself. Avoid thinking of moving your head upward and then walking as two separate actions. putting your hands at the spot on each hip where your leg bends.) 72 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . that I had to stretch my legs to get them down there. (Fig. 6. there's often a tendency to pull the head back and down. I discovered my old habit had involved sinking into my hips and throwing myself off balance every time I shifted my weight from one leg to the other. therefore. walk around the room. (Fig. whether you start at a gallop or more gradually accelerate from a walk to a run. Applications to Daily Life My first experience with walking by means of the Alexander Technique was new and strange to me.) In running. (There is naturally a slight. I felt that my feet would no longer reach the floor. Notice whether your hips shift from side to side or up and down. infinitesimal undulation of the hips forward and back when you walk—unless you tense up and interfere with it. notice whether your head continues to ease up as you walk. Place your fingers on the front side and thumbs on your upper buttocks. You'll be pleased at the gain in lightness and ease. I discovered I was no longer pushing into my hips toward the floor on every step. Each time you start. I was letting my body glide along at a constant distance from the floor while continuing to explore the act of walking.
which helps increase the speed and control of it. His whole body will become involved in the swing.Playing Golf In golf.) Otherwise he fears he cannot swing hard enough. will he maintain an upright stance and his arms have the greatest flexibility possible.) This important advantage is often sacrificed in the supposed interest of power. The golfer thus compacts his body. Downward pressure. 8. 6. pressing in and down to brace himself in order to swing. 7. 5. He will then have a true one-piece swing. Easing upward. the upright stance provides flexibility in the shoulders and the torso and makes possible the maximum control over the swing. WALKING WITH EASE 73 . Only when he is willing to let his head move up and his body follow. (Fig. the golfer is getting in his own way. However. With a compacted approach. (Fig. shoulders easing out. it is the speed of the club head and not the force with which it is swung that makes the ball travel farthest.
Lengthening upward and outward.7. 74 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .
Pulling down. WALKING WITH EASE 75 .8.
Action 4 Moving Legs Exploring Yourself Stand next to a firm waist-level surface.) Imagine a line drawn from one hip to the other and keep that line parallel with the floor. Applying the Basic Movement Still stabilizing yourself when you need to. 4. (Fig. (Fig. Does your right lower leg hang as freely from your knee as it can or is it tense? Do you lift or move your right hip unnecessarily? When you lower your leg. you may use it to balance yourself during this exploration.) 76 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Move your head and look around the room.) Avoid sinking into the leg on which you are standing (Fig. do you release it and drop it easily or do you reach at the floor with your foot and tense the muscles in your leg as you lower it? Once again take note of what your head and body have been doing. Lift and lower your right leg several times. Take note of how successful you are at balancing on one leg. (Fig. 3. Now lower your leg down to the floor. let your head ease upward and away from your body and let your body follow that motion. bend your right knee and lift your right leg until your thigh is about parallel with the floor. Rest one hand on it lightly.) or lifting the hip of the leg being lifted. As your body continues upward. 2. Lift your right leg till your thigh is parallel to the floor. 1.
Lift your leg. MOVING LEGS 77 .1.
Now let your raised leg swing forward and back freely from your knee down. Then gently release that leg to the floor. Before you shift any of your weight onto it. it would swing like a pendulum until it lost momentum. It should be free enough so that if someone were to push it lightly. Push your lower leg with either hand instead of using your muscles to swing it. then move your head and body upward as your weight shifts to that leg. Lift your other leg by bending the knee while letting your head and body 78 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . first make sure the whole sole of your foot is touching the floor.
The line of the hips is parallel to the floor. 3. 4. Lifting the hip needlessly. MOVING LEGS 79 . Then shift your weight from the back foot to the front by moving your head away from the top of your spine and letting your body follow that upward motion over your foot.continue upward. The important 2. lift your leg a shorter distance so that finally you will be walking easily. Let your lower leg swing freely. allow your foot to come to the floor in front and to the side of the foot that supports you. then gently release at the hip joint until your foot touches the floor again. On each step. The next time you repeat lifting one of your legs. Avoid sinking into the hip.
So the direction of energy is often downward when a person climbs stairs. People have pre-set attitudes toward almost every physical task they perform. Applications to Daily Life Walking Up and Down Stairs Many students of the Alexander Technique find that walking up or down stairs makes them realize how much less effort is needed when directing their energy upward. The error occurs when a person doesn't experiment with his attitude—doesn't try out easier ways to do the job. How much effort is necessary to get up to the next step? A typical attitude held is that a person must push downward in order to move up to the next step. These attitudes generally involve erroneous judgment of how much effort is required to perform a task or how their bodies must work to do it well. 80 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Examine your attitude toward climbing stairs. (Fig. 5. Upward direction.) The problem occurs Downward direction 6.thing is to discover how to allow your body to go upward and forward over your legs instead of being carried by them like dead weight.
Avoid freezing your gaze. Most people place all their weight onto the forward foot before straightening the leg.) Walking down stairs is often done with equal inefficiency. and the effort involved in straightening the leg with most of the body weight on it is exhausting. allowing your head to move upward and your body to follow. 8. To move down a staircase. usually because it is never approached consciously.8. nor do you need to jump from foot to foot. you can still look down at the stairs to see where you are stepping. which requires extra work in order to maintain balance and control. (Fig. apply the same principles. When you are walking up or down stairs.) There is no need to keep the muscles of your knee in constant tension to serve as a brake. Easing upward. Pulling down. (Fig. To climb stairs the Alexander Technique way. place your foot lightly on the step and gradually straighten your leg as you follow your head upward and forward to move your body above that stair. 6. 7.during the shift of weight after the foot has been lifted to the next stair. 7. In going up an incline. MOVING LEGS 81 . simply allow your knee to bend forward as you follow your head upward.
as is most desirable? Do you have to tense your thigh or calf to lift your heel? Also try slowly lifting your toes off of the ground so that only your heel remains on the floor. You may notice that as you move your ankle. where does the pressure on the ball of your foot fall? Is it under your big toe. Leave the ball and toes of your foot on the floor. in little jerks. Applying the Basic Movement Begin as before with your feet at least five inches apart and pointing forward in whatever position is most comfort- 82 . such as a car jack. on the outside or evenly across the front of your foot. lift each heel off the floor and put it down again. Very slowly. See if you are locking your ankle joint at the top of the movement—with heel as high as possible—and at the end of the movement—with foot flat on the floor. one at a time. When your heel comes up. Look for the same indications of freedom or tension. This indicates excess tension and that you are tensing the muscles around your ankle.Action 5 Heel and Toe Exploring Yourself Sit in a chair. in the center. it moves as though it were on a ratchet. up and down. Notice whether or not the movement is smooth. rest your feet on the floor about five inches apart and pointing forward.
Repeat with your other foot. between your hip socket and your knee and between your ankle and your knee. As you continue. then let the remainder of your foot. you are becoming aware of how you move your ankle. If you concentrate solely on your ankles to the exclusion of the rest of your body. Let your toes bend slightly up from the floor. let your head ease upward and follow it with your body. Now see what happens when you repeat this action.) Then as you let your heel very gently down to the floor. you will begin to improve your use of yourself. include your legs in your awareness. HEEL AND TOE 83 . Now lift your toes off the ground so that only your heel remains on the floor. 3. When you understand how easing your head upward and letting your body follow affects the movement of your ankle and every other part of your body. But something constructive is happening. be unchanged or become tiring. but rather to allow it to be its full length and free of tension. let your toes come back to the floor. follow upward. Lengthen your leg all the way from heel to hip. Avoid contracting the muscles of your thigh by continuing to lengthen your leg as your left heel comes very slowly off the floor as far as it can. It will either become easier. except your heel. 1.able. Think of your whole leg getting longer. and let the movement of your ankles fit in with it. release your ankle and continue lengthening your bent leg. (Fig. See if you can find the most efficient way (the one involving the least tension) to raise and lower your heel. (Fig. 2. it will be harder to move them freely. Then stand up and walk around to see what changes have occurred. This does not mean stretching your leg. Keep the ball of your foot on the ground and spread your toes. There is no set way to do it.) Sit comfortably. (Fig. Now as you let your head move upward and away from your body and allow your body to follow. The body's motions can now be consistent from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Remain aware of the relationship between your head and body.) In order to begin and complete this movement.
84 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . 1. will give you added freedom of motion. the upward direction of your head and body. but there is no need to focus on them except when doing this Action. now including your legs and feet.Applications to Daily Life Freedom in your ankles is essential for efficient and easy walking. Foot flat on floor pointing forward. Generally.
Lift your heel. 3.2. HEEL AND TOE 85 . Lift your toes.
Make sure 86 . Instead. (Fig. Bend both knees until they are directly above your big toe. Then straighten your legs and return to the standing position.Action 6 Knee-Bending Exploring Yourself Stand with your feet a shoulder's width apart (from eight to eighteen inches). away from your body. continue to follow your head upward with your body and without tightening your legs. Your legs should continue to lengthen as your knees bend. Include your legs in the easing so that they lengthen and lighten. As you release the muscles around your knees. let them go forward. When you are successful with this Action. you will feel no pressure or strain on your knees. Notice what if anything you do with your head and your body.) A common tendency is to think of the knees as moving downward. 1. Are you bending at the hips and ankles? Repeat this until you are clear about how you are bending your knees. Let your feet be as close to parallel as is comfortable. Applying the Basic Movement Allow your head to move delicately upward. keeping your body perpendicular to the ground. Notice where you feel any pressure on your hips or legs. and allow your body to follow. which creates more pressure than is necessary. make sure they bend directly above each foot. As your knees bend.
KNEE-BENDING 87 .1. Release knees forward.
3. Keep your body sense alert so that you can tell if at any point you are tensing your knees. let your head and body ease upward from your legs and let your knees follow. 2.) Place a mirror at your side to monitor this movement.you release your hip joints so that your body does not tilt backward when your hips lock (Fig. rather. 3. Don't let your old habits interfere with your new way of bending. 88 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . (Fig. it is part of the movement 2. Rather than pushing your body back up with your legs. or forward if needless extra effort is used in bending your hips (Fig. No need to lean forward.). but remains perpendicular to the ground. 1. Applications to Daily Life The simultaneous bending of both knees rarely occurs by itself in everyday activity.). No need to tilt back.
4. 5. The act of walking is greatly influenced by the amount of flexibility in the leg joints. Knee-bending is also the most efficient way of approaching any activity in which you are standing and must lean over to work.). Instead of going forward by bending your back and hunching your shoulders (Fig. carpentry. (Fig. and do the work with their legs as they should instead of their backs. doing dishes and ironing are examples of such activities.of sitting and standing. Easing upward. a freedom most people need. When people bend to pick up things.) 4. The greatest value of this Action is that it frees the hips and knees. stay upright and bend your knees to lower yourself to the level you need. you will encounter a variation of it in the plié. that movement is present even though their feet may be positioned differently. KNEE-BENDING 89 . If you're a dancer. knees bent. Pulling down. 5. Working at a low counter.
ACTION 7 Standing Up and Sitting Down
In Action 1, you learned how to lean forward without pushing forward. Now get up from a chair, noticing what your body must do in order to stand. When leaning forward in order to stand up, do you use more effort than when you merely lean forward in a chair? No more effort is actually needed. Now sit down from a standing position and notice what happens to the relationship of your head to your body. Do you freeze your head or any part of your body while you sit? Repeat these two Actions, noting everything that is involved in sitting and standing.
Applying the Basic Movement
Standing Up. Sit in a chair of average height. Begin by becoming aware of what you do with your head and your body. Turn your head from side to side and allow it to move up and away from your body. As you become aware of the
upward direction, lean forward by following your head with
your body. Continue following as you lean forward until your buttocks come off the chair. (Fig. 1.) As you lean forward, "upward" becomes diagonal from the chair, not skyward. As soon as your weight is on your feet, you have completed the movement.
1. Following your head upward.
STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 91
Sit back in the chair and repeat this movement several times, noticing what you do in order to come to your feet. Discover how to do the movement in one flowing motion with the least possible effort. Often people discover that they are giving a little push, a little tightening, just before they leave the chair. There are many people who at first feel that this little push is absolutely necessary but soon discover it isn't when they let their bodies follow their heads. Having made a slight improvement in the flow from sitting to getting your buttocks off the chair, go all the way to standing the next time you do it. "Upward" will continually change in relation to vertical as you fold forward. Notice whether you continue to follow your head or whether you change direction and push yourself up. (Fig. 2.) Beware of trying to swing yourself to your feet. (Fig. 3.) NOTE: When you stand, it is necessary to use your thigh muscles to some extent, so rather than concentrate on your legs, observe what you must do with your head and body to gain the most efficient use of your legs. After you have come to a standing position, your head continues upward and your body continues to follow it. There is no reason to abandon that upward direction and collapse after you have stood up. (Fig. 4.) Sitting Down. In the act of sitting, the advantage of following your head with your body is that you have control of your balance as you sit. An important idea to grasp about sitting down is that you must continue to follow your head upward with your body. If you let all your joints fold as you sit, and direct the energy upward to relieve pressure on the joints instead of tensing to keep from falling, you will not have to work as hard. As you stand in front of a chair, get your head and body going upward. As soon as you feel pressure taken off your legs, release your leg joints and let them fold. Remember to let your hips bend as well so that you lean forward as you approach the chair. (Fig. 5.) If this is confusing, stand up again, noting how far you fold forward as you stand. Sitting down is the same movement in reverse. 92 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE
2. STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 93 . Beware of swinging up. 3. Beware of pushing.
94 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Once standing.4. continue easing upward.
5. Bending the joints to sit. STANDING UP AND SITTING DOWN 95 .
It is one of the best movements you can do to explore coordination of your whole body. Whichever way it is done. They go through a sequence that resembles shifting gears in a 1950 pickup. straightening the joints and rebalancing the weight on the feet to stand. Most people drop themselves into a chair and push themselves out. one that uses the whole body is the movement from standing to sitting and vice versa. How many people have you seen who push their knees down with their hands in trying to stand.Applications to Daily Life Of the movements we repeat most often. it is all the same basic movement: bending at the hips. reach out with your arms or perform any other variation on the movement of standing. you can avoid the shifts in direction and stand up in one easy flowing motion. many people divide the movement of standing into steps: lean forward. But if you can learn to follow your head with your body. then folding into the chair to sit. knees and ankles.) Without even thinking about it. And you can do it without the extra effort of forcing or tensing your muscles. when they actually need their legs to go up? (Fig. You will still have the flexibility to twist and turn your head. shoot up. 2. 96 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Most of us complete this action many times a day in an uncountable number of ways and positions. though. push down.
1. 97 . 1. Ideally.) More realistically.A Short Daily Routine A Time for Rest The experiments you've been doing thus far have been designed to teach you conscious control of yourself. Begin by finding a place that is comfortable. spread-eagle fashion. See if you can get your knees to fall inward rather than outward. Lie down. There is one activity you can use daily to reinforce the process of lengthening in movement. The point of it all is to teach you to let your head and body ease upward during any movement. your feet should be a shoulder's width apart and your knees balanced freely. relatively quiet and can be used regularly. your knees will tend to fall toward each other. Lie down with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. directly above your feet. Plan to use this space whenever you want to do this activity. Putting your feet farther apart is helpful. or outward. (Fig.
Make yourself comfortable on your back. though you'll soon be able to rest without one.Let your feet rest parallel to each other on the floor and about two feet away from your buttocks. Let your arms rest easily on the floor at your sides. it will become easier to lie down this way. so you can compare your awareness from one week to the next. from "I have too many important things to do. Simply lie there for two to five minutes. write down the things you noticed during each session. make a mental note of your body's condition. then make minor adjustments. If any of these positions creates undue pressure. When you have made a change in your belief system. but continue to make note of them each time. Afterward. In that case you do not need to write your notes but can use your memory instead. What is important here is that you have begun to spend a period every day. for me to be spending time on myself. As you learn to direct energy upward and to move with greater freedom. you may need up to twenty minutes. and too many responsibilities. (When you are feeling extremely tense. A two-inch-thick pillow under your head is permissible. on body maintenance. feet on the floor." to 98 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . warmer More than likely you'll notice the same things from day to day.) As you lie there. For example: Pressure across the back of my hips Tingling in my right knee Pain in my left upper back Sensation along the left side of my neck The floor is cold on my back My breathing moves my stomach The small of my back isn't touching the floor Feeling a little angry at first Cold fingers Felt calmer at the end. You may also be able to remember all these sensations. short though it may be. or bend them at the elbows and rest your hands comfortably on your stomach. Keep your eyes open.
several times. slowly lower your body until your hips are on the floor again. Do the same with your left shoulder. Then starting at the middle back. You don't need to push your body into changing. As you release it back to the floor. the shoulder. If that should happen. After you've taken this thoughtful rest for a few minutes. move your head by nodding it. 1. however. 3. After nodding." you can give yourself the opportunity to improve your performance of any activity. front and back. Lift your right shoulder toward the ceiling. your head continues to move delicately away from your body. chin toward your chest and then back tip from your chest. (Fig. The lift continues to the middle of the back.) 2. With the back of your head touching the floor at all times."time spent on myself is as important as any other time. front and back. 2. seems to have some length. All the while you are doing this. With your feet firmly on the floor. lift your hips up from the floor. let your head come to rest in a position where your neck. Roll your hips up. Again. Let your shoulders widen and open. You may. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 99 . but because of friction with the floor you feel stuck at first. let your head move away from your body and let your body lengthen from buttocks to shoulders. find that your body does begin to lengthen. will feel slightly longer. 2. do the following series of movements to allow your body to continue lengthening. move it slightly out from your body.
) Straighten your arm. There is no need to tense any part of your body to start the movement.) Then allow your lower arm to float up. Moving Your Arms Lift your arms one at a time. rolling it from side to side. Use the release of tension to move your head. (Fig. Continue to experiment with moving your head. beginning the movement by easing your head upward. Rotating Your Head See how easily you can rotate your head from side to side. Be careful not to increase the pressure of your head against the floor. 3. 4. Very gently lengthen out through your fingertips. (Fig. First let your hand float from the floor. Notice whether or not you press your head into the floor or lift it off the floor slightly to move your arm.Now that you do not feel stuck to the floor. Permit your shoulders to continue easing outward from your body. Any movement can be done by letting your head ease upward and your body follow. following your hand and bending your elbow. Make sure you move your arm without a jolt or locking any part of it. you're ready to experiment with some movements in the lying-down position. 5. Find a way to move without jerking or setting (tensing) your body. roll your head from side to side. Then slowly and gently move both arms in every which 100 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Try doing fast movements with the least amount of tensing. as that begins to lengthen your neck. Observe whether any other part of your body tightens or moves as you roll your head. All of the movements can be effortless. Roll it from side to side a few times. Bend it and curve it any way you wish.) Finally your upper arm can follow the floating movement and your whole arm will be above your body. bending your wrist (Fig. Let your other arm rise the same way. Pay attention to what you do with your head and body as you move your arm. Move your head by letting it ease away from your body and.
A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 101 . First move your hand. Then the lower arm moves. 4. 5.3. Move your whole arm.
your hand. As your leg moves away from your chest again. Then place your foot on the floor again. body and arms. (Fig. Whenever you let your arms return to the floor. Then let your lower arm follow and.) Your knee will travel through a slight arc. continuing the movements of ease. (Fig. Return always to the bent-knee position. lengthen it toward your elbow. There's no need to push it away from your body. 102 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Do this a couple of times with each leg. Now lift your left foot again and bring your leg toward your chest. See what happens when you move your arms quickly and sharply. allowing your head to move away from your body as your body follows. finally. As you let it down gently. first allow your upper arm to come to the floor.) Let your right leg straighten in the same manner. 6. Direct the energy up through your bent knee toward the ceiling. let your left foot slide along the floor away from your body until it is straightened and fully on the floor. Lift one foot off the floor by bringing your leg toward your chest. back and whole 6. Don't interfere with the freedom you've created in your head. 7. Bring your leg toward your chest.way. Moving Your Legs Next lift your legs one at a time. The object is to learn to move your legs with the least amount of tightening in your stomach. noticing where you tighten and observing whether or not you tense your head as you move your leg.
let your knees come to the floor. Now straighten up. 9. To do this.) Then roll onto your back by moving your head first and letting your whole body follow.) As your head continues to move. 9. Sitting Up To sit up from the lying position. causing your body to roll until you are lying on your side. Let your head move away from your body and let your body move with it. doing the same.) Now you should be sitting. (Fig. The leg is straightened. Remember. 8. (Fig. 7. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 103 . Draw your knees up again. one at a time. while thinking of your legs lengthening outward through your knees. it is essential to let your head continue moving instead of locking in place. (Fig. Rolling onto Your Side Let your knees fall slowly and easily to one side. let your head go outward from the top of your spine and permit your body to follow. your head doesn't necessarily have to be the highest part of your body as you stand.body. Seated it's easy to stand simply by following your head with your body. Roll to the opposite side in the same manner. let your head begin rolling toward the same side. If you want to bend over as you come up. Always let your head and neck be free. As you sit up. roll onto your side. neck and torso. Use the arm closer to the ceiling to push on the floor in front of your chest. Allow the ease to continue in your head.
Having a good soft pillow that forms to your head. is better than a stiff or bouncy one. Let your head roll to the side. use the position of rest described above (Fig. The best way to sleep is on your back unless you have specific physical problems that prevent this position. Your knees roll to the floor. Restful Slumber Sometimes we do not get the full benefit of a good night's sleep because we continue so many of our habits of tension while we sleep. When you first lie down. a few adjustments will 104 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . 9. Then let you legs straighten out and rest on the mattress as you continue to let your head move away and your body to follow it! If you must sleep on your side.8. or no pillow at all. 1.).
10. such as a sit-up. collapsing onto your chest (Fig. A SHORT DAILY ROUTINE 105 . . When rising from the bed in the morning. but rests directly above the other shoulder with your chest and back unconstricted. or at least rest the upper part of it on your upper side. that can shock your body with exaggerated muscle action. Bunch your pillow under the side of your head so that your neck is straight as it would be in standing.). If you slept on your back. Lengthening.11. This will keep your body from collapsing onto the shoulder that rests on the mattress and will prevent your neck from cramping (Figs. 11. make this position more advantageous. Cramped.). 10. Then lay your top arm on the side of your body. 11. This way your upper shoulder does not curl down. and let it bend at the elbow. avoid doing any movement.
among others. By this procedure you can. eliminate the panic from fear and size up the situation that inspires it and do something about it. anger or hostility. then sit up gently as you ease your head and body up. for instance. for example. tenses muscles in the neck.first roll onto your side. Anger. they arise subconsciously before the conscious mind can act. wasteful or debilitating emotion will express itself in tensions that you can perceive even before you go haywire. jaw and shoulders. The value of control can be seen if we recall for a moment the many unfortunate events in which we and those we love have been hurt by actions stemming from fear. When you detect these signals. inundated by it. Emotional Control—Worry. 106 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . which can tie you into knots or make matters worse. If you must do them in the morning. by releasing tension throughout your body. the new direction of your energy. Any harmful. gives you a means of coping with the emotion so that it remains a potential for action but does not interfere with rational decision and any action you may take. Panic You can apply the Alexander Technique in your daily life so that your emotions do not get out of hand. Anger. even before you choke up or explode. This is not the same as trying to suppress anger. Rather. simply give some attention to easing your head upward and allowing your body to follow after it. do all your calisthenics after your body is more awake and your heart has adjusted its beat to a moving body. Emotions are not the result of a conscious decision.
If that is the case. and it need not impede the smooth course of making the Alexander Technique your own. take careful note of the sketch that applies to you. Following are some of the needless difficulties I have most often observed.Some Helpful Hints You now have the simple program that will make an important change in how you function at every level of your daily life. But perhaps you may discover one or another obstacle with which you have been needlessly hampering your own progress in acquiring the Technique. The entire purpose of the sketches that follow is to provide a means for understanding and resolving any unnecessary problem you may recognize in yourself. The reason may -be that it seems too good to be true: it can't be that simple. The Worrier One of the most common tendencies seen in beginners is the "I can't" habit. I have encountered many of the handicaps that people create for themselves at the beginning. If so. But perhaps because the Alexander Technique is so easy to do. It can be eliminated as soon as you become aware of it. These people focus on what they won't or 107 . Surely there have got to be complications. well and good. the problem involved and the answer to it. we manufacture unnecessary difficulties in the process of learning it. It may be that you are not troubled in any of the ways described below. As a teacher of the Alexander Technique. These thumbnail portraits have been designed as a series of helpful hints for carrying out the Technique. and so we go about inventing them.
can't do. guilt crept over me. Are you pulling down? Then go up. and began to press more lightly on the pot. Every activity had a different but usually effortful physical attitude attached to it. In other words. I was in the kitchen one day. When. There really is no need to be a "straining housewife. feeling very easy. for example." 108 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . Only by thinking during the activity was I able to avoid doing the excess work that made me feel I was doing the job right. they give their bodies the instruction to follow their heads. I experimented with just how hard I needed to hold onto it. Still. it's not necessary to be in a state of continual regret when you feel you're in error. I continued my experiment until the pot was clean and then I felt actually refreshed. Don't worry about what you're not doing. It was still coming clean. Thinking about how you should be easing up is like making a plan to do the laundry instead of actually doing it. While scrubbing away furiously at a burned pot and considering all this. In the process. they immediately ask themselves. I reasoned. pulling my shoulders in. "Am I doing it?" They notice that nothing is happening and then they think. I realized I had been bent over." The idea of the Alexander Technique is to pay attention to what you are doing. As I stood there. I began to notice a definite physical attitude that took over whenever I worked in the kitchen or performed other household chores. The Straining Housewife One of my own experiences can best explain what is involved here. "I'm not doing it! I can't. This can't be right if it's making me feel good instead of strained and tired. After that experience. feeling better and better. As I stood there. I suddenly thought. I let my arm lengthen and hold onto the scrub brush very lightly. "Why not practice what you preach?" So I let my head move up and my body follow. after spending an entire morning teaching the Technique and talking a lot about integrating relaxation into daily activity.
When I take my hands off. How can words possibly make them go farther when you reach that limit?" What he has forgotten is that upward is a direction. Go past words to experiencing the idea. I can stretch my neck by putting one hand under my chin." I tell her: You have not quite understood what I mean by "thinking. The Manipulator "When I get a tension headache.' I can't go around SOME HELPFUL HINTS 109 . I can force . well. Direct your head to move upward and your body to follow with awareness. Let it happen. There is a maximum point of lengthening the spine. But I can't keep hanging on that way. you can't go around doing that and carry on your everyday activities. it takes so much energy to stay aware and remember to move 'Up." Obviously. the other hand on my shoulder. . But you can do some constructive thinking that carries over into every activity. do it with my hands. The Scientist He has deduced: "My head and body can only go so far upward before levitating is the next step. not hands. . This prevents the tendency to pull it downward." It is not just the process of repeating the words or idea in your head. The Under-Achiever The under-achiever says: "Oh. Thinking in these terms must be an active process that actually releases you from the downward pulls you ordinarily experience. and pushing my head up. but you can always continue to direct your head upward as you continue to move about.The Thinker She says: "I think and think about my head going up but nothing happens. not a place. my head comes back down again.
to move your head up. The Freezer He declares: "I know where up is. to get forward in a chair. But as soon as I move. I think of any action as moving upward with my head and body. you're already moving. The Step-by-Stepper He says: "I ease up every time before I move. That way change will come out of every activity you do and not as a result of something imposed on you. it will be there. I have things to do. The next step. You won't have to summon the thought to move your head. If you do this. but I just look as though I'm being stiff and formal. and it's very hard to do two things at once. Surely I have to do something. will be to learn to continue directing the energy upward during the movement. I can remember to think about it." To the step-by-stepper I reply: See if you can ease up in order to make a move rather than easing up before you move. so all you have to do is continue moving and you'll get to where you want to be. and when I'm sitting still and not doing anything." Preventing the back-and-down pull is like breaking any other habit.thinking about this all the time. You still have to learn how to recognize your own movement without tensing or pulling down." When you're letting your head ease up and your body follow. then "up" becomes relative to the movement you're doing. your head can still move up away from your body but of course not toward the ceiling. If you bend over. For example. I think about that immediate move and forget about easing up. then. At first you have to remind yourself to do something different—in this case. 110 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE . tense some muscles. Soon this awareness will become an integral part of everything you do. I go up with my head and let my body follow to reach with my arm in any direction.
The fact is. So I don't turn my head. Be satisfied with a little so that you notice the smaller changes more. You yourself change from movement to movement as do the requirements of any activity in which you may be engaged.The Over-Achiever He has the opposite problem from the under-achiever: "When I do what I think is easing up and maintain. and I don't ever slouch in a chair. hold it. lock in and become inflexible. That's fine. I do ten minutes in the morning and ten after dinner. The Practicer She complains: "I go home and practice this Technique every day. These are the things you do over and over again. Maybe I'm practicing wrong. And when do you use yourself most? In all your everyday activities—eating. When you start allowing your head to ease upward and your body to follow while you SOME HELPFUL HINTS 111 . When you get to the point where you refuse to change. stop practicing and start living! In studying the Alexander principle. I still feel just as tense after a long day at the office as I always did." First. I feel very uncomfortable and stiff. you're trying to learn to use yourself better. and then I feel as though I shouldn't move or I'll lose it. The point of asking you to let your head ease upward and your body to follow is that you can get a little more flexibility and ease. you've lost that flexibility. I can really move forward and back in the chair very well." Whenever you think you're doing something right. talking to a friend. you tense up. What you do is make your head move up as far as possible. taking a shower. but I don't seem to be making any change. you're easing up as soon as you think of it. I try to think about "it all the time. then when you get to the limit. The change you can make yourself is very subtle. probably without awareness. let go of it.
Then you're giving yourself a choice you never knew you had before—the choice of acting with or without tension. Habitual tension doesn't keep you in shape. for example. then you'll be putting what you've learned to use. Because of unnecessary tension in certain parts of your body. It's the way you use the energy that can be of help to your body. The Posture-Maker She says: 'I can't seem to remember where to put my head to get back that floating feeling. The Weight-Watcher Her reasonable question is: "You say that if I use the Alexander Technique I'll learn how to put less energy into doing everything. Go back to letting your head move upward and away from your body as your body follows. not of posture and position. 112 THE ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE .wash your hands. You don't have to think during all activity. notice and see if you can feel a little more ease. for example. And should my feet come down heel first or toe first?" There is no right place to put your head. Won't I get flabby and out of shape if I stop exerting as much energy? Then I'll have to exercise twice as much. then you'll get the maximum use out of all your muscles. it just makes for hard. body. in any movement you do. you stand up straighter. The Alexander principle is a principle of movement. Where is it again? Sometimes I decide to pull my chin in and push my shoulders back but they never seem to stay. some muscles don't get used at all. in taking a step. whatever you do. shoulders. locked muscle tissue. Then you're on the right track. But every once in a while. and usually they become a deposit area for flabby fat. It just so happens that when you stop interfering with your body's natural functioning." You're making the wrong assumption if you think that simply putting forth energy will keep you in shape. When you learn to use your body as an integrated whole. chin or anything else.
She has taught the Alexander Technique at several campuses. among them Ohio University and Prescott College. Louis. world-famous anthropologist who discovered australopithecus and who is self-taught in the Alexander Technique. . Ms. In preparing this book Ms. Missouri.ABOUT THE AUTHOR SARAH BARKER received her master's in fine arts from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. and Edward Maisel. Texas. Frank Pierce Jones who conducted major scientific experiments on the Alexander Technique at Tufts University. Barker is now teaching the Alexander Technique at Webster College in St. editor of Alexander's writings. Barker consulted with Professor Raymond Dart.
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